Thursday September 21, 2017

UPDATE: Yankee Stadium to expand netting after girl hit by 170 km/h foul ball

New York Yankees third base coach Joe Espada holds his helmet after a young girl was hit by a line drive during the fifth inning.

New York Yankees third base coach Joe Espada holds his helmet after a young girl was hit by a line drive during the fifth inning. (Bill Kostroun/Associated Press)

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UPDATE: The New York Yankees said they will "significantly" expand the protective netting at Yankee Stadium after a one-year-old girl was struck in the face by a 170 km/h foul ball on Sept. 20.

In a statement issued Sunday, the team said the new netting will be installed for the 2018 season and will "exceed the current guidelines established by the Office of the Commissioner of Major League Baseball."

As It Happens spoke with New York City Coun. Rafael L. Espinal Jr. last month about his proposed legislation to have the netting extended to the ends of both dugouts. Read our original story below.


Read Story Transcript

A New York City councilman is renewing calls to extend the protective netting at Yankee Stadium after a young girl was hit in the face by a 170 km/h foul ball on Wednesday

"Every time that one of these players hits a foul ball going that fast out into the stands, it really poses a threat and a risk to any fan that's sitting out in the stands," Coun. Rafael L. Espinal Jr. told As It Happens host Carol Off. 

Espinal introduced legislation in May for protective netting to be extended to the ends of both dugouts, and a hearing is scheduled for Oct. 25.

"The dangers are real and we have to make sure that our fans are protected when they decide to go and watch a baseball game," he said.

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Baseball fans reacts as a young girl is carried out of the seating area after being hit by a line drive during the fifth inning of a baseball game between the New York Yankees and Minnesota Twins. (Bill Kostroun/Associated Press)

Yankee Stadium fell silent and the players appeared visibly shaken on Wednesday after a small girl was struck by the foul ball off the bat of Todd Frazier during Wednesday's game against Minnesota.

Witnesses say she was bleeding profusely after being hit in the nose and eye. She was there with her grandfather, who picked her up and whisked her away.

She was taken to a hospital for treatment and New York manager Joe Girardi said he had been told by team security that she was OK.

A shaken Frazier crouched with his hands over his face. The Yankees third baseman then bowed his head, walked away from the plate, crouched again and rested his head on the end of his bat.

"I thought of my kids. I have two kids under three years old and I just hope she's all right," Frazier later told reporters.

Twins players also were distressed, and second baseman Brian Dozier and the Yankees' Matt Holliday had tears as they said prayers at second base.

"We've been trying to get these teams to put nets up," Dozier said.

"Number one, you don't bring kids down there. And number two, every stadium needs to have nets. That's it. I don't care about the damn view of the fan or what. It's all about safety. I still have a knot in my stomach." 

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Todd Frazier of the New York Yankees gets down on one knee after a child was hit by a foul ball off his bat in the fifth inning against the Minnesota Twins. (Abbie Parr/Getty Images)

Espinal commended the players for speaking out in favour of increased security.

Major League Baseball issued recommendations for protective netting or screens in December 2015, encouraging teams to have it in place between the ends of the dugouts closest to home plate.

"It remains an ongoing discussion in the industry," Commissioner Rob Manfred said at Safeco Field, before Wednesday night's game between Seattle and Texas.

The Mets extended netting beyond the outfield ends of the dugouts this season after the All-Star break.

The Yankees said in an August statement posted on the team's website that they "are seriously exploring extending the netting prior to the 2018 season."

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New York City Councilman Rafael Espinal introduced legislation in May for protective netting to be extended to the ends of both dugouts at Yankee Stadium. (lbin Lohr-Jones/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Espinal said the delay appears to be about aesthetics more than anything else — concern that season-pass holders will complain the nets obscure their baseball viewing experience.

"The netting is barely visible," he said. "And it doesn't interfere with how you enjoy the game."

He noted that the most expensive seats are the ones behind home plate, "and since the beginning of time they've had netting placed there."

"I don't think that a few complaints should drive the conversation on the stadium not wanting to extend the netting up past a certain point," he said. 

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Protective netting stretches the length of the dugout to protect fans at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia. (Rich Schultz/Getty Images)

While the sight of a bloodied child being carried away by her grandfather appears to be garnering support for his motion, Espinal hopes to see it come to fruition before something much worse happens.

"I think it's a matter of time before a real serious conversation happens, but I do hope it happens before someone gets hurt or possibly gets hit by a ball that becomes fatal," he said.

With files from Associated Press