Reducing Risk: Fan Safety 2020

The urgency of safety.

“My wife heard it. It was the worst noise she’s ever heard — the crack of my skull.”

These are the words of Major League Baseball fan, Dwayne Sowa. He was struck on the right side of his forehead by a foul ball at Philadelphia’s Citizens Bank Park in 2014 (learn more). He needed surgery to fix a crushed bone above his right eye, and still suffers from lingering side effects.

For this, and many other reasons, the importance of safety considerations for fans cannot be overstated – or overlooked — at today’s ballparks.

Sowa’s injury is but one of many that occur each year at MLB stadiums. About 1,750 spectators are hurt each year (learn more) by batted balls — mainly fouls — at major league games, as reported by Bloomberg News. Doing the math, that’s a person who is injured by an errant ball at least twice out of every three major-league games. That’s more often than a batter is hit by a pitch (1,536 times last season per Elias Sports Bureau Inc.). That’s just a few statistics from the majors. There are hundreds of minor league and college-level teams in the U.S. so you can only imagine how many more people are getting injured.

The situation is serious.

It’s serious enough to warrant the attention of two U.S. Senators. They put pressure on MLB (learn more) to become more proactive about fan safety. In the summer of 2019, the Chicago White Sox became the first major league team to extend protective netting. The White Sox decision was just the beginning. By December 2019, baseball commissioner Rob Manfred announced that all 30 MLB teams would expand netting (learn more) in 2020. Interestingly, there was no rule passed that led to this unanimous safety upgrade. As Manfred described, “we talked to the clubs, made the case that extending netting was the thing to do, and the clubs individually responded in a positive way.”

Positive action should continue in 2020.

In the summer of 2019, the issue of fans suffering injuries by batted balls was concerning enough that I felt I needed to speak up and share my point of view — Why is this continuing to happen? On the heels of the MLB safety decision, momentum from these developments continues and additional conversations about fan safety continue to filter down to every level of the sport. The message is clear: fan safety is paramount and must be given highest priority.

At Beacon, we champion fan safety. We are 100% behind helping organizations — from city-run little league fields all the way to professional stadiums — make their fields of play in 2020 a safer venue to watch America’s pastime.

— John

Related Article: Fan Safety: 5 Things to ConsiderWhether you are an athletic director, a facility manager, a grounds keeper for a municipality or a coach, here are five tips to help you make sure your field and overall facility is as safe as it can be for players and spectators.

John Maher

John is the Owner & CEO of Beacon Athletics. He has overseen the growth and expansion of Beacon's commitment to the ballfields industry through better products & services for groundskeepers, coaches, field managers, and facility planners as well as unmatched resources through timely articles, information and training at Groundskeeper University.

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