This summer, they stretched the netting at Citi Field halfway into the outfield. In response, Trost offered what amounted to a verbal shrug.
“We have fans that are communicating with us that they are upset that we’re even considering it,” he said of any additional netting at Yankee Stadium beyond what Manfred had asked for. Trost’s statement certainly suggested that the Yankees were as mindful of their high-paying fans who didn’t want extra screens interfering with their views as they were with keeping everyone safe.
At that time, in late July, Trost said that the Yankees were consulting with the architectural firm that built their stadium about the feasibility of installing extra netting. He said the Yankees would think about it and study it and look at it. “We don’t think this is a three-day job,” he said.
Well, then, is it a 60-day job? Because that’s about how long it has been since Trost made that statement. I bet it could be a three-hour job if that little girl in the stands on Wednesday night was your child.
Yes, the Yankees also put a statement on their website in early August saying that they were seriously exploring additional netting, but they have said little on the matter since then. On Thursday, they issued a statement saying their “thoughts and prayers were with the injured girl’’ and that they were in contact with her family.
But thoughts and prayers are not enough.
Meanwhile, across town, the Mets look like champions for extending their netting and doing so proactively before something awful happened.
After all, safety changes in sports almost always seem to happen only after disasters happen. It was only when a 13-year-old girl was killed by a flying puck at an N.H.L. game in 2002 that the league called for mandatory netting to be installed at both ends of the rink.
So now the question is what it will take for Major League Baseball to make every team do what some teams already have and extend the protective netting even more. You’d figure that a toddler getting hit in the face would be the tipping point and there were signs on Thursday that maybe it will be, with three teams — Cincinnati, Seattle, San Diego — all saying they would extend the netting now in their ballparks.
It is worth remembering in all this that, for decades, there have been harrowing incidents at baseball games in which fans were injured. In 1970, a 14-year-old boy was killed by a foul ball at Dodgers Stadium. Many years and many injuries later, a Red Sox fan in 2015 was hit with a broken bat at Fenway Park and suffered serious injuries.
Following the Fenway incident, Manfred stated that the sport’s “first and foremost concern remains the safety of our fans.’’ He also noted that the issue was complicated, since some fans want to sit close to the field.
And when Manfred subsequently made the suggestion to all 30 teams that they add some additional netting, he cited another complication — that each stadium is designed differently.
These complications all have the feel of an excuse. And in the end, safety issues never go away.
Consider what Nascar has been through. For years, Nascar officials and racetrack owners have struggled to balance fan safety with the desire of some to sit as close as possible to the track.
In 2013, in what certainly wasn’t the first big crash at Daytona International Speedway that injured spectators, more than 30 fans were hurt when debris flew into the stands. One of the injured fans said he suffered a traumatic brain injury, and this year finally settled a lawsuit with Nascar.
After that 2013 crash, the speedway was renovated. Its website touted that “the front row will be moved up 12 feet to improve trackside views.” Unsaid, likely on purpose: to improve the chance you won’t be hit by a flying tire.
No sport wants to acknowledge that its fans aren’t safe. What it should acknowledge is its duty to do everything in its power to keep them safe. And that’s where baseball should find itself right now.
On Thursday, Manfred took note of Wednesday’s incident in a statement and said that baseball officials would “redouble our efforts on this important issue,’’ although how much pressure he will ultimately apply on reluctant teams is unclear. He did tell reporters on Thursday night in San Diego that he was encouraged by how many conversations his office was now having with teams about adding more netting.
Players know putting in more netting is the right thing to do. Many, including the Yankees’ C. C. Sabathia, say they won’t let their families sit in the stands without netting in front of them. They’ve called for ballparks to be safer for fans. If you saw the look on Todd Frazier’s face on Wednesday after his line drive hit the little girl, you would know why.
Frazier, who has two children who are younger than 3, crouched. He rested his head on his bat. He looked like he was about to cry.
It’s time for teams, all the teams, to have those human emotions, too — and act on them. It’s called doing the right thing.