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October 30th, 2020

Insight

Warning: Being a disengaged fan can be dangerous --- with nobody to blame but yourself

Greg Crosby

By Greg Crosby

Published June 28, 2019

Warning: Being a disengaged fan can be dangerous --- with nobody to blame but yourself
I was watching a Dodgers game on TV last Sunday, Cody Bellinger was at the plate. He hit the ball, it went foul and sailed into the crowd and smacked a young woman squarely in the head.

Dodger Stadium suddenly grew quiet and Cody, who actually saw it hit her, was visibly shaken. She was sitting four rows up from the field along the first base side of the diamond, just beyond the protective netting that stretches to the end of each dugout at the stadium.

The young woman stayed in her seat with an ice pack applied to her forehead for about 15 minutes before she was taken to the hospital for precautionary tests.

Bellinger, who must have felt horrible, went over to check on her between innings. She was alert and responsive and, as far as anyone knows at this point, not too seriously hurt.



When the accident occurred one of the sportscasters suggested that she might have had her head down and been texting, but then quickly took it back by adding "but that's not meant to be a condemnation of her . . . what is really needed is more protective netting."

It sounded to me like the announcer might have gotten a message through his earpiece not to accuse the girl of being inattentive.

Well, here's the thing. No one knows for sure (except maybe the people she was sitting with) whether the young woman was texting or putting mustard on her hot dog or talking to someone next to her. But the one thing we do know for sure is this; she wasn't paying attention to the game. If she were, she certainly would have seen the ball coming.

Yes, I know what to expect: hate mail. And lots of it.

This will be one of those columns where readers will write in to say how mean and heartless I am. I have no compassion. How could I blame the poor victim?

I'm sorry if it bothers you to read this, but yes, I am blaming the victim. When you attend a baseball game, especially if you are sitting in seats where foul balls are routinely hit, it is your responsibility to pay attention to what's happening on the field.

Baseballs and broken bats are flying through the air all the time and all over the place at major league games. Read your ticket. It has a disclaimer that states, "THE HOLDER ASSUMES ALL RISK AND DANGERS INCIDENTAL TO THE GAME OF BASEBALL INCLUDING SPECIFICALLY (BUT NOT EXCLUSIVELY) THE DANGER OF BEING INJURED BY THROWN OR BATTED BALLS."

Of course no one wants to see a fan get hit by a baseball. Everyone feels terrible when that happens, most especially the players on the field. But a mature person needs to take full responsibility for his or her personal safety when attending a ballgame.

That means keeping an eye on the action on the field. Can an accident still happen even when you do everything right? Of course, but being aware of your surroundings helps mitigate the possible danger.

As I said, I don't know what this particular girl was doing, but I can tell you this, whenever the camera pans over the crowd, I see hundreds of people with their heads down looking into their smart phones. Not too smart.

Not only is it dangerous, but also why go to a game if you're not going to be involved in it?

And as far as kids are concerned, it is up to their parents or guardians to watch them and make sure they are safe and paying close attention to the field action as well. When it comes to babies, as far as I'm concerned, they have no business at all at a baseball game. Leave them home until they're old enough to know where they are and what baseball is all about.

Naturally the official Dodgers statement took the position that the ballpark was at fault, not the inattentive fan.

CEO and president Stan Kasten announced that the team would extend netting at Dodger Stadium, possibly as far down the line as the foul poles. The kneejerk reaction to everything bad that happens in our world today is to blame the "thing" not the person.

How much netting is enough to make baseball fields completely safe? Should triple-thick safety plexiglass be installed around the perimeter of the field? It reminds me of how city parks and playgrounds have taken all the fun out of kid areas in the name of "safety." Instead of teaching kids to be careful, smart, and take responsibility for their own actions, we just dumbdown the play area.

I'll say it again, if you're not paying attention to the game and you get whacked, it isn't baseball's fault, it's your fault. And if your kid gets hurt it's your fault too.

Keep those cards and letters coming in, folks.

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JWR contributor Greg Crosby, former creative head for Walt Disney publications, has written thousands of comics, hundreds of children's books, dozens of essays, and a letter to his congressman. He's been a JWR contributor since 1999.

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