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Saturday, November 21, 2015

Fans injured more often than batters hit by pitch. Changes may finally be forced on MLB.

Note the date of my post below and the recent dates of The Times articles.  Basic common sense and human decency should have produced fundamental protection many years ago for baseball fans attending games.  A few weeks ago on the MLB Network I heard former player Eric Byrnes mention that when he attends a game with his kids he has them sit behind the protective screen behind home plate.  Unfortunately, that screen does not extend nearly far enough to protect very many fans.  Read my 2012 post on this, then The Times articles quoted below that.

Protect the Fans! Wednesday, May 30, 2012

While cruising past the Red Sox game at Fenway Park I noticed that a man sitting in what is generally considered to be one of the best seats, near a dugout, had apparently been hit by a foul ball struck by Prince Fielder of Detroit.  There was some concern and the injured person was helped away for medical attention.

We've seen this many times.  So why don't we take corrective action, the type that would be considered basic common sense in any normal context.  Why isn't MLB considered negligent for not making its ball parks more safe for fans?  Why doesn't some municipality take action?  Why don't fans sue? ...

Maybe someone can corroborate this but I seem to recall that a Japanese ball park in which the Yankees opened the regular season about a decade ago had the protective screen behind home plate extend down each line, maybe to the foul poles but I cannot recall.  MLB needs to do that.  Extend that screen as far as is necessary to protect fans who are unable or unwilling to protect themselves and   to protect minor children who cannot make informed decisions.
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M.L.B. Nears Plan for Netting to Protect Fans
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS NOV. 19, 2015 The New York Times

Major League Baseball is close to new recommendations for safety netting at its stadiums for the 2016 season.

Commissioner Rob Manfred said Thursday that it was “absolutely clear” that there would be changes...

Manfred said that fan safety was paramount ...

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What could possibly have caused the commissioner, Manfred, the A-Rod Slayer, and all those owners to decide to change their policy?  As kid I actually would read the warning on the back of the ticket stub.
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Danger at the Ballpark, and in a Baseball Ticket’s Fine PrintSports Business
By JOE NOCERA NOV. 20, 2015 The New York Times

... the days when major league teams could avoid liability for fan injuries by inserting some legalistic fine print on the back of the ticket could soon be coming to a close...

... at Yankee Stadium on Thursday, Aug. 25, 2011.

A 50-year-old Manhattan real estate executive named Andy Zlotnick had gotten his hands on some great seats for that game: he was sitting in the third row, about 50 feet or so past first base ...

... Hideki Matsui, then playing for the A’s ... Zlotnick, surrounded by open umbrellas, couldn’t see Matsui or Phil Hughes, the Yankees’ pitcher. Thus when Matsui pulled a scorching foul ball down the first-base side, Zlotnick never had a chance. A second — literally — after he heard the crack of the bat, he was on the ground, howling in agony, blood streaming from his eye and the left side of his face.


Matsui’s line drive foul completely destroyed the bones around Zlotnick’s left eye socket, fractured his sinus and upper jaw, and did extensive damage to the left side of his face...

Zlotnick ... discovered that while eight teams forbade the use of umbrellas except during rain delays — two didn’t even allow them in the ballpark — many other teams had policies like the Yankees’, which simply said that umbrellas were permitted, “so long as they do not interfere with other Guests’ enjoyment of the game or event.” No mention of safety, you’ll notice...


He also reached out to Randy Levine, the Yankees’ president. They met in November 2011. Zlotnick showed him pictures of his injury ... “Please ask your owners to prohibit umbrellas so no one will suffer the way I have.” ...

By early 2012, ... Levine told Zlotnick — again according to Zlotnick — “We can’t do anything for you, and my lawyers have told me not to speak to you.” ...

Near the end of 2012, feeling he had been left with no choice, Zlotnick filed a personal-injury lawsuit against the Yankees and Major League Baseball...

“The bearer of the ticket assumes all risk and danger incidental to the sport of baseball,” the Yankees declare on the back on their tickets. The legal boilerplate then goes on to declaim all liability if a fan is injured at Yankee Stadium...

Zlotnick’s lawyer, Edward Steinberg, ... a personal-injury lawyer, viewed Zlotnick’s case differently. In allowing open umbrellas during the game, the Yankees, in his legal opinion, negligently increased the danger posed by the game of baseball...

July 2013, ... State Supreme Court ... in the Bronx ...

In September 2014, a Bloomberg News reporter named David Glovin wrote an article about the extent of the injuries sustained by fans during baseball games... about 1,750 a year. As Glovin noted, “That’s more often than a batter is hit by a pitch, which happened 1,536 times last season.” ...


The former outfielder Matt Stairs once told The Chicago Tribune that he won’t allow his daughters to sit near the dugout.

Many other players have the same rule: Because they see it every game, they know how dangerous those seats are.


In mid-July, two prominent plaintiffs’ firms filed a class-action lawsuit on behalf of all season-ticket holders against Major League Baseball and Commissioner Rob Manfred.
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