Lawsuit Asks Major League Baseball To Put Up Safety Nets All The Way To Foul Poles

This is the view from the plaintiff's section at  Coliseum. The lawsuit claims that only the pricey VIP seats are protected by safety netting.

This is the view from the plaintiff’s section at Coliseum. The lawsuit claims that only the pricey VIP seats are protected by safety netting.

I’ve been going to baseball games since I was old enough to walk, and I’ve even had regular seats in prime foul ball territory. Yet I’ve never managed to snag an errant ball (and luckily, I’ve never had to duck out of the way from a flying bat). If a new lawsuit has its way, my dream of someday catching a foul ball will become even more of a fantasy.

“Every year, a growing number of fans, of all ages but often children, suffer often horrific and preventable injuries, such as blindness, skull fractures, severe concussions, and brain hemorrhages, when they are struck by a screaming foul ball or flying shrapnel from a shattered bat while sitting in an unprotected area,” reads the complaint [PDF] filed in a federal court in California against the office of Rob Manfred, the Commissioner of Major League Baseball.

The plaintiff, a self-described “devout fan” of the Oakland A’s, notes that “1,750 spectators are injured each year by wayward baseballs,” which is more frequently than a hitter at the plate is struck by a pitch. And during the course of each game upwards of 40 balls make their way into the stands.

“Baseballs have an average mass of 5.125 ounces, and a 90 miles per hour fastball can leave the bat at 100 miles per hour,” reads the complaint. “The average professional batter’s swing impacts 4,145 pounds of force to the ball. Peak forces from such a ball can exceed 8,300 pounds – enough to stop a Mini Cooper in its tracks. It is thus a serious safety hazard when foul balls fly into a ballpark’s
Danger Zone’ (the unprotected area along the first and third base lines).”

The plaintiff’s seats at Coliseum [still referred to as Oakland Coliseum in the complaint] are in Section 211, which is along the baseline but higher up than the seats that are more directly protected from foul balls by the safety netting.

“Due to the fact that at Oakland Coliseum, the protective netting behind the backstop is minimal, and does not extend to her seat, foul balls have shot into the stands around her more times than she can count,” alleges the complaint, which says the plaintiff is “constantly ducking and weaving to avoid getting hit by foul balls or shattered bats.”

The complaint contends that MLB stadiums only have enough safety netting to protect “VIP” patrons in the most expensive seats immediately near the home plate area and leaves the rest of the lower level seats at risk for injury.

The lawsuit is seeking class-action status to represent anyone who purchased a season ticket to a major or minor league baseball game and whose seats are located in any exposed area between home plate and the the right and left field foul poles.

Rather than looking for a cash payout, the plaintiff is asking for the court to require that all MLB and minor league stadiums be retrofitted to protect the fans in these seats.

Every MLB ticket sold already includes a warning about projectiles and whatnot possibly making their way into the seats, but the plaintiff’s lawyer contends that many fans are unaware of the full risk, and that the numerous distractions at a ballpark mean that not every fan is paying rapt attention to the game at every moment.

“Every ball thrown in the major leagues bears Commissioner Manfred’s autograph,” argues the suit. “It’s time for the Commissioner and his office to take action. It is time for baseball to do the right thing, not just for the fans, but for the sport.”

To get an immediate reaction to this lawsuit, Consumerist spoke to Philadelphia Phillies fan Amy, who disagrees about the need for additional netting.

“When you buy the ticket, you know the risks,” she explains. “I think we cater too much to what might happen.”

Of course, if Wrigley Field had extended netting all the way to the foul poles back in 2003, the team might have made it to the World Series that year instead of blaming poor Steve Bartman for their continued woes.

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