I’m sure anybody who pays any attention at all to what happens in the world of major league baseball is aware of the tragedy that occurred in Arlington, Texas a couple nights ago, when a young firefighter and father fell over a railing to his death after reaching out to catch a baseball thrown his direction by a player. Even more tragic is the fact that his six-year-old son was standing right there watching it all unfold.
This is the kind of thing that we never want to see happen. Baseball is a great family tradition in America, and it’s all about having a wonderful experience at the ballpark. One of those wonderful experiences has long been getting a baseball from one of the players. Who would have ever thought it would become deadly?
Discussion I’ve seen since it happened has centered around trying to get the players to stop throwing baseballs into the stands. But to my mind that’s doing it the wrong way. What really needs to be done is protecting the fans from just such falls.
Many of us have been in baseball stadiums where, in the upper decks, you see just a short railing to keep people from falling over the edge. I have personally found it to be a frightening experience, being afflicted with the usual male “fear of heights”, to be in the upper deck of the stadium with the steep stairs and the seats towering over me. I don’t want to get anywhere close to that railing!
I understand Arlington has a city statute that mandates such railings be at least 26 inches up from the floor. The railing this young man fell over was 33 inches high, so it was well over the minimum. But the fans don’t want the railings to go too high, because they could block their view of the game! So what is to be done?
I propose the stadiums be retrofitted with catch nets. These would be good, strong nets, several feet wide, that would stick out horizontally at about floor level. Then if somebody should happen to fall over the railing, he would be caught just right there at floor level, keeping any injury from being more than very minor.
Of course, retrofitting all the stadiums with such nets would be expensive, but in all honesty, the teams and Major League Baseball itself is not exactly hurting for money. Look at the exorbitant contracts they give to so many players. I can’t believe even the players themselves wouldn’t be willing to give up a little bit out of their contract to ensure the safety of the fans and keep baseball a great family experience.