Get the Net…

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I am glad that all of MLB’s 30 teams have extended the safety netting at their ballparks for the 2016 season. Why? Because I don’t believe that attending a baseball game should be a contact sport.

Okay, okay. I know that it is a spectator’s responsibility to pay attention at all times. It says so in the disclaimer on the back of every game ticket. It is announced at the beginning of every baseball game at every stadium. It would also seem that it is just plain common sense that if there is a possibility of a baseball or a shattered bat making a bee-line for your unprotected melon, that you might want to pay attention. But that is not the world in which we now live.

How many times does the average person look at their center-of-their-universe cell phone over the course of their day? Think about it. The answer is astonishing. I actually researched this question and found that the number landed somewhere between 110 to 150 times per day. That’s incredible, right? People are so wrapped up in text messages, e-mail, Instagram, Snap Chat, and Facebook that it is a wonder that they have time for anything else. That is our world of today. Social Media rules the day, and sadly for so many people, it has replaced the real world. With that said, the average length of a MLB game is 2 hours and 58 minutes. In our social media-text message centered world, how many people do you know that can simply shut the damn phone off for almost three hours? If you are honest with yourself, you will find that the answer is probably close to zero.

That is hardly the only distraction at the old ballgame. If you made the trip to the ball park with your family in tow, guess what? You have that distraction! Did you notice the huge, new multi-million dollar scoreboard? Distraction. Do you like peanuts, popcorn, and Cracker Jacks (or hot dogs, beer, ice cream, or…), or the person carting them around? Distraction.

There is yet another factor, and it is this…there is the possibility that even if you are paying attention, you may not be agile enough to protect yourself against flying objects from the field. How many times have we seen a batted ball or a broken bat go sailing into the stands and strike a fan who was paying attention? Quite a bit, I’m afraid. A foul ball is still a batted ball, and a ball can leave the MLB bat at well over 100 MPH. Is the average fan quick enough to get out of the way? Maybe, or maybe not. We have all seen both.

My point in all of this is that for most people, it is not as easy as ‘just pay attention’. It really isn’t, so with that said do MLB venues have a responsibility to ensure fan safety? No organization wants to have an unsafe environment where fans are afraid to attend the games. There is no revenue in empty seats, so isn’t in MLB’s best interests to make things as safe as possible? Even if there is no legal obligation to do so, I believe that they should. If MLB is all about the ‘fan experience’, shouldn’t fan safety be a part of the experience?

Lastly, about the netting…Does anybody really believe that it will somehow degrade the view? I submit that if you are not sitting in the very first row with the netting tickling your nose, the netting will make absolutely no difference in your ability to see the action on the field. If you are sitting 20 rows back, is the average fan even going to notice? Even if you did notice the nets when you first got there, the nets will quickly just fade into the visual background.

People ultimately have the responsibility for their own safety, and a huge part of that is being aware of your surroundings, and people should be prepared to react to the ever-changing landscape. However, sometimes they are not. I think that it is prudent and reasonable for MLB and it’s teams to do whatever they can to keep the game safe for the fans.

MLB…My Peculiar Home Field

MLB…My Peculiar Home Field
I was reading a book the other day which addressed the oddities found in nature and the like. It was somewhat entertaining, a little weird, and it gave me an idea. Major League ballparks have, probably more than in any other sport, their own unique personalities. Think about it. Football, hockey, and basketball all have their dimensions rigidly mandated. A regulation football field is 100 yards long (plus 10 yards for each end zone) by 53.33 yards wide, or 300’x160’. The NBA mandates that their baskets are 10’ high, and the dimensions of the court are 94’ x 50’. The NHL requires that the goal nets are 6’ x 4’, while the rink itself is 200’ x 85’. Even in baseball, there are certain measurements that are set in granite, such as there is exactly 90’ between the bases. The pitcher’s mound is exactly 10.5” inches above the level of home plate (MLB Rule 1.04), and the pitching rubber is exactly 60’6’ from home plate. But that is where the similarities end. The dimensions that I just gave for football, basketball, and hockey encompass the entire playing field, and they are not negotiable. Baseball however, is a very different story. Outside of the dimensions that I just used, plus a few others, everything is subject to the individual personality of a particular ballpark. The left field foul pole in Dodger Stadium is not the same distance from home plate as the same left field foul pole at PNC Ballpark in Pittsburgh. Is there another fence as high as the left field wall, the ‘Green Monster’ in Fenway Park in the entire Major Leagues? Is there a lower wall than the right-center wall in the same Fenway Park? Every ballpark has its’ own unique dimensions, its own peculiarities, and that got me thinking…
What if we could compile a list of the individual quirks of every single Major League park? This could be a lot of fun, and would give you, the readers, an opportunity to contribute to my blog. I figured that I would start with a few obvious ones. First, there is the aforementioned Green Monster of Fenway Park in Boston. How about the ivy covered walls of Wrigley Field in Chicago? Then there is Tal’s Hill in Minute Maid Park in Houston. Of course, we have to include the catwalk in Tropicana Field in Tampa, right? I could go on and on, but I won’t. I will leave the rest of this article to my readers. I am thinking that when I have compiled enough data, maybe I will publish them as a whole. I think that it would be a cool exercise in baseball trivia, don’t you? I will anxiously await everybody’s input. I am not sure how long I will leave this open for comment, but I will give it a reasonable length of time, perhaps until the start of Spring Training 2015.
The individuality of Major League ballparks is something to be acknowledged and celebrated. Let’s do that! Thank you, my fellow baseball fans!