Depending on your level of involvement, you may or may not have heard last month about the woman at Fenway Park that was hit by a broken bat, suffering life-threatening injuries in the process. Just a couple days ago, a class-action lawsuit was filed against Major League Baseball, asserting that too little has been done to protect fans seated near the field, even in spite of warnings every single game that balls, bats, and even fielders can go into the stands. While most lawsuits have the goal of receiving some sort of monetary compensation, this one is much simpler: By the start of the 2016 season, all major league ballparks should be mandated to have protective netting that covers all of the fans in foul territory, stretching from one foul pole to the other.
Nathaniel Grow at FanGraphs has a pretty good take as to why this lawsuit faces multiple hurdles. The shortened version is that...
1. No plaintiffs in the lawsuit have actually been injured at a game.
2. Teams already warn fans of the risks of attending the game, either over the loudspeakers or in print on your ticket.
Another interesting argument I saw in the comments on FanGraphs was on the issue of protecting fans in the home run seats as well. After all, if we're interested in preventing unsuspecting fans from flying objects, we might as well protect everyone, right?
Back in August of 2010, I was hit right in the face by a home run ball. It took place during batting practice and I was working that day as an usher instead of being a fan, and admittedly it was my own fault. I had my back to the field while talking to another person and I didn't consider that I was in prime home run territory. By the time fans alerted me that a ball was coming, it was already too late and I was smacked right in the chin upon looking towards the field, getting knocked to the ground in the process.
In spite of that incident, I'm definitely against the possibility of extending the netting further into foul territory. While that accident at Fenway Park was unfortunate, I feel that it was a freak accident. Think of how many games are played every season. Now think of how many fan injuries are reported, caused by objects leaving the field of play. Off the top of my head, the woman from Fenway is the only instance I can find.
When it comes to extending nets around the ballpark, I think back to #2 above. When you sit in those seats, you inherently know that there's a chance a foul ball or a player's bat could come flying at you. I was hit during batting practice because I wasn't paying attention. Near the dugouts, I feel you should be paying attention to what's happening on the field as well. Now, it's not possibly to pay attention 100% of the time, but the seats are already facing the field. Additionally, every play has at least 15 seconds of downtime before the next pitch is delivered. Be smart about what's distracting you and you'll be fine.
But, perhaps my biggest argument is the simplest and yet also the most controversial. Don't want to get hit by flying objects? Don't sit there! When I was working at Target Field, we had a pretty easy ticket exchange that was available to all guests. Since I worked in the upper deck, my guests would often complain about the height or the direct sunlight. If necessary, I'd recommend that they go to the ticket office and request a new seat. Sure, you'd have to pay the difference for an upgrade and I'm not entirely sure if there were refunds if your new seat was cheaper, but I had plenty of fans find a way to enjoy the game after learning their first seat wasn't that great.
Unless you were invited to the game by someone else, you probably paid for your own ticket at the ballpark. You can choose to sit by the dugout or you could take the nosebleeds that are seemingly closer to the Target Center than home plate. I'm biased because I actually find the closer seats to be worse, but a game can be enjoyed regardless if you're 1 row or 30 rows from the field. No one needs to be that close to the field, but one can certainly need to feel safe. I understand I'm coming off as brash, but if safety is your concern, you can always find another place to sit and a bigger risk-taker will replace you.
I would like to note that I have not mentioned anything about the netting getting in the way of your view or preventing souvenirs for fans. Hockey added nets behind the goals and I haven't heard complaints about it disturbing a person's sight, and I don't really care all that much about foul balls anyway. I feel that if us fans were smarter in the stands, we wouldn't need to worry as much about whether netting should be added to further protect the fans.
Oh, and one last thing. Stop complaining if an adult brings a glove to the game. However, if that fan gets a baseball and then refuses to hand it over to a kid, then you're welcome to give them all the side-eye glares you want.