Pitchers are throwing the ball 90 – 100 miles per hour now. A 90-mph fastball can leave the bat at 110 mph. source
Anyone who pays some attention to baseball knows that it’s dangerous to get near a game. That’s why batters wear helmets and pads. And it’s one reason spectators pay attention to every pitch and protect themselves. Also they want the ball. Also the sharp pieces of broken bats fly into the crowd.
While I was driving past Louisville once, I heard on the radio a man from the Louisville Slugger company who said major league players use 80 bats in a season.
These dangers are greatest in the lower, very expensive seats, though we’ve seen foul balls come toward us on the upper deck.
I feel sorry for anyone hurt anywhere, maybe especially kids; but I feel no support for lawsuits demanding damages from the team owners.
Why do people take small children and even infants into an area swarming with people, then into a park with 40,000 people, some drinking beer and/or margaritas, busy with hot dogs, tacos, and nachos ? My authoritative belief is that most kids under 9 or 10 can’t or don’t want to focus on the process of the game or to be alert to dangers of various kinds, including hygiene in the busy washrooms. Is that changing table clean? The kids can learn the game from television as well or better than in the park. Always with parental help, of course.
When a hot line drive heads into the stands, will you always see it coming? You’d better.
You can’t expect to collect on an injury that is your own damn fault.
From the Trib:
Spectators hurt by baseballs face long odds in court
State law shields teams from litigation
By Steve Schmadeke and Elvia Malagon, Chicago Tribune 10.14.17
Juanita DeJesus never saw the ball coming.
DeJesus was sitting along the first base line at a 2009 minor-league baseball game in Gary when an infield fly struck her in the face just as she looked up to spot the ball. The impact broke several bones in her face and resulted in permanent blindness in her left eye.
Her injuries were strikingly similar to those recently suffered by John “Jay” Loos, a Schaumburg man who filed a negligence lawsuit against the Chicago Cubs this week after also being blinded in his left eye when he was hit by a foul ball while sitting in a seat down the first base line in the outfield at Wrigley Field in late August.
“I had no idea that you were subjected to such missiles and the rate of speed that a ball can come into the stands,” Loos, 60, told reporters Monday. “In the stands, you know, you are sitting behind the plate, you can’t tell when the ball is contacted, you can’t tell where the ball is going, you can’t tell the rate of speed it’s going until it’s on top of you.”
But like DeJesus, whose lawsuit was dismissed outright by the Indiana Supreme Court in 2014, Loos faces long odds of winning in court.
Not only have judges across the country thrown out such lawsuits, but Illinois is one of four states where the legislature enshrined into law the so-called Baseball Rule, which absolves stadium owners of liability so long as an adequate number of seats — largely in the area looking onto home plate — are behind protective netting. Fans who sit elsewhere are presumed to have willingly assumed the risk of being hit by a ball or bat, according to the rule, which is now more than a century old.
The debate over increased safety — versus fans enjoying unobstructed views and the chance to catch a souvenir foul ball — was reignited in September when a little girl was hit by a rocketing foul ball at Yankee Stadium, prompting Major League Baseball’s commissioner, Rob Manfred, to say the league is looking again at extending protective netting.
“The events at yesterday’s game involving a young girl were extremely upsetting for everyone in our game,” Manfred said in a statement, adding: “We will redouble our efforts on this important issue.”
In 2015, the league issued recommendations that ballparks have protective netting between the dugouts for any field-level seats within 70 feet of home plate. Those recommendations prompted the Cubs to extend the netting out that distance at Wrigley Field before the 2016 season, a Cubs spokesman has said.
The team’s president of business operations, Crane Kenney, told WSCR-AM 670 The Score last month that the Cubs would add at least 30 more feet of netting before next season as Wrigley Field renovations move the dugouts farther down the foul lines. Last year the White Sox also extended netting at Guaranteed Rate Field.
Beyond the Baseball Rule, legal obstacles include difficulty proving that spectator injuries are so commonplace that the courts should intervene. Last year, a federal judge in California threw out a class-action lawsuit against MLB filed by two fans who argued protective netting should be strung up along the entire length of the foul lines at all stadiums. The judge ruled that the plaintiffs had failed to show they and any other fans faced enough risk of injury to give them legal standing to sue.
In Loos’ case, his attorney argues there are two exceptions in the law that could allow them to win the lawsuit. He hopes to convince a judge that the MLB isn’t covered by Illinois’ stadium owner liability law and that the Cubs’ conduct in failing to install netting was reckless — both high hurdles. Another injured fan who alleged the Cubs recklessly removed netting behind home plate in 1992 to make way for skyboxes saw his case dismissed, records show.
“It’s obvious that the Cubs have known people are being seriously injured — it’s happened there before,” said Loos’ attorney, Colin Dunn. “It’s at least going to be a jury question as to whether this was willful and wanton conduct.”
But Dunn indicated the case may get settled. “I got a feeling that they want to talk to us,” he said of the Cubs, whom he reached out to before filing suit. “They do care about their fans. I’m hopeful that they’ll do the right thing.”
A Cubs spokesman declined to comment but directed a reporter to the statement issued by the team Monday that said “the safety of our fans is paramount to a great game day experience.”
It’s not publicly known whether these types of injuries are on the rise, though the class-action lawsuit alleged that they likely were, as pitching speeds go up and batted balls travel faster. A 2003 study found that about 35 fans were injured by foul balls per 1 million spectator visits to major league stadiums.
The risks of being hit by an errant ball or broken bat are low, according to lawsuits filed against other major league teams over injuries. But the injuries they cause can be catastrophic, especially to children.
A 7-year-old Cubs fan attending his first baseball game at Wrigley Field in 2008 was left with a fractured skull and swelling around his brain after being hit in the head by a line drive, the Tribune reported. There are no records indicating the family ever filed a lawsuit.
The Atlanta Braves reportedly settled a lawsuit recently filed by the father of a 6-year-old girl whose skull was fractured by a line drive in 2010.
But in an aside in her ruling to toss a California class-action lawsuit, the judge questioned why the league hadn’t done more to mitigate the danger to its youngest fans.
“Why Major League Baseball, knowing of the risk to children in particular, does little to highlight this risk to parents remains a mystery,” wrote Oakland U.S. District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers in her ruling throwing out the class-action lawsuit over protective netting.
In 2014 a Bloomberg Businessweek report found that about 1,750 spectators are injured annually by baseballs that fly into the stands. Around 73 million people attend major league games each year.
Spokespeople for the Cubs and White Sox declined to provide figures on how many fans are similarly injured each year.
Figures unearthed in the class-action lawsuit show that during the 2015 season at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles an average of about two people were hurt by foul balls per game out of the 46,000 on average in attendance. In Seattle, about 300 people attending Mariners games were injured by errant baseballs out of the 10 million who attended games between 2005 and 2009, according to an appeals court ruling upholding the dismissal of another fan injury case.
This week, the Chicago City Council passed a toothless resolution calling for the city’s major league teams to surpass MLB’s minimum standards for protective netting and instead “lead the league.” The resolution also asks the teams to “reconsider” the Baseball Rule that transfers liability for spectator injuries to fans who sit in unprotected areas.
In the early 1990s, two rare legal victories for spectators injured while attending separate Cubs and White Sox games may have been the impetus for an Illinois law that now protects stadium owners from similar suits.
Delbert Yates Jr., a fourth-grader, was sitting behind Wrigley Field’s home plate in 1983 when he was struck under his right eye by a Leon Durham pop-up seconds after betting his sister whether Durham would get a hit, court records show. His attorneys at trial presented evidence that the screen behind home base was inadequate, and the family won a $67,500 jury verdict.
A state appeals court upheld the verdict in 1992. That same year, another appellate panel reinstated a lawsuit filed by a woman whose jaw was broken at a White Sox game when she looked up from her popcorn and was struck in the face by a foul ball, finding that the issue of whether the Sox had provided proper warning of her injury risks was a trial issue.
Just six months later, state lawmakers stepped in and passed the Baseball Facility Liability Act, shielding stadium owners from most lawsuits by turning the Baseball Rule into state law. James Jasper, who was struck by a foul ball at a Cubs game, filed a lawsuit over his injury and argued the new law was an unconstitutional handout to stadium owners. But in 1999 an appellate court upheld the law and the lower-court dismissal of Jasper’s lawsuit, essentially ending the legal issue in Illinois.
Outside of Wrigley Field during a recent scheduled playoff game, many fans sided with the Cubs organization on the issue of fan injuries. Among them was Naomi Rodriguez, 56, of Wrigleyville, who said spectators must pay attention to flying balls and bats.
“When you walk in the park, you have to know that this can happen,” Rodriguez said. “It’s just what happens, but I love my Cubbies. I back them up 100 percent.”
Others welcomed more protective netting at Wrigley Field. Mike Ford, 46, of Crown Point, said he believes fans are assuming the risk of being injured by sitting in areas where foul balls typically land. Standing outside of Wrigley Field with his 11-year-old son, Ford said the risk of being hit with one of the balls is one of the reasons why he buys seats in the terrace reserved outfield area.
He would like to see the spectator netting extended at the ballpark, which would expand his seating options.
“I’d be willing to go down to that section if I had the opportunity to,” he said.