Albert Almora Jr. wept openly, his humanity on full display last night in Houston. His foul line drive had struck a young fan seated down the third-base line, her injuries severe enough to require hospitalization. Minute Maid Park was eerily silent as shared concern over her condition erased any reasonable interest in the baseball game happening.
This morning, we don’t know her status. That sick feeling subsided a bit after initial optimistic rumors that the prognosis was better than feared, but still lingers.
Almora, the father of two young children, is left in the same position all of us are. Forced to hope and pray for the best.
“Right now, I’m just praying and I’m speechless,” he said. “I’m at loss of words. Being a father, two boys … but God willing, I’ll be able to have a relationship with this little girl for the rest of my life. But just prayers right now, and that’s all I really can control.”
No one should ever be in this position. More importantly, no one should be in the position of the poor family affected. No one’s trip to the ballgame should result in tragedy. Not when the solution is so easy, not when it’s so damn preventable.
Yes, this is stating the obvious. All 30 teams have extended netting to protect fans near the field. Calls are already coming in to go a step further.
Foul line-to-foul line netting is the norm in Japan and other international venues. And while some would bristle at the lack of intimacy it creates, it’s incumbent on us all to assess our own humanity. What is more important than the safety of fans? What is more important than ensuring that youngsters can come to the ballgame, see their favorite players up close, and not have to bargain with their health to do so?
It’s almost unfathomable it took so long for us to get to our current state. The existing netting requirement, which may be inadequate, was so plainly obvious for so many years and yet baseball dragged its feet. It’s unreasonable to ask fans of any age to avoid blistering line drives into the stands. Even if they’re paying attention. Even if they have the physical ability to handle it.
Yes, there is some personal responsibility that needs to come into play. Parents with small children would be wise to choose seats that aren’t in the line of fire. This isn’t victim-blaming but rather the reality of the situation.
It would be much easier for the teams and baseball to take this concern out of the equation. There will always be ticket-purchasers who either don’t think about the possibility or mistakenly believe that it can’t or won’t be a problem.
At the end of the day, it’s a baseball game. The national pastime is meant to be an enjoyable erasure of time, a carefree experience. There’s beauty in the family bonding that can happen at the stadium.
To not address the problem of fan injuries, which still exist, with proactive measures is selfish. And it shows misplaced priorities.
What happened in Houston last night will, sadly, likely happen again. But it’s past time to do everything possible to reduce the risk.