Last year, the Phillies nearly had a tragedy on their hands.
During the August 20 game between the Phils and St. Louis Cardinals, Freddy Galvis hit a rocket of a foul ball into the stands that struck a young girl in the face. Thankfully, the little girl turned out OK, but the following night, another fan was hit in the head by a foul ball while seated in the lower bowl.
At the time, Galvis was apoplectic as to why there wasn’t more extensive netting around the dugout area.
“What year is this? 2016? It’s 2016 and fans keep getting hit by foul balls when you’re supposed to have a net to protect the fans. The fans give you the money, so you should protect them, right? We’re worried about speeding up the game. Why don’t you put up a net and protect all the fans?”
Galvis noted there may have been a concern by the organization that fans would be upset by the annoyance of looking through more netting.
“They’re worried about stupid stuff. They should worry about the real stuff. That’s real stuff. What if I broke all her teeth? What if I broke her nose? If I hit her in one eye and she loses that, what are they going to do? They’re going to forget in three days. It’s going to be a big deal for two, three days. Everybody in TV, media, whatever. But after three days what’s going to happen? They’re going to forget. But that family won’t forget that. Do you think the little baby will forget that? It’s true life. It’s something you have to put before everything. Safety first. Safety.”
Here was how Phils broadcasters Tom MacCarthy and Ben Davis dealt with the situation the day after the first incident.
On Friday, the Phillies announced in a letter to season ticket holders that they would extend protective netting above both dugouts.
“We think this is a reasonable step which will provide additional protection for fans,” said Mike Stiles, the club’s executive vice president and chief operating officer. “We believe we can do this without obstructing the views of any of our fans.”
It should be noted that the team did extend netting a little last year, stretching it closer to the dugouts. The Phillies say the new netting will be installed later this month, and invited season ticket holders to view the changes once it’s finished.
Fans who may be upset about having to sit behind netting should remember that the most expensive and sought-after seats in every ballpark are the ones right behind home plate, an area that has always had a giant net hanging there.
Netting is a minor annoyance that is quickly forgotten after about 5 minutes, and protecting fans from a major disaster is well worth that annoyance. After all, it’s clear that something had to be done.
Fan safety is more important than anything else. A batted ball traveling at 100 mph or more can kill someone. The reaction time is so fast, and some balls can have a slice on them so severe, that even a fan that is paying total attention to the game may not be able to get out of the way.
So kudos to the Phillies on a change that was sorely needed. Extending the protective netting won’t save every fan from potential injury, but it should protect a great many more fans than what was in place prior to now.