Friday, July 8, 2011

A little perspective

If you've ever been to a baseball game you've seen it.

If you've ever watched a baseball game on television, you've seen it.

People will go to unimaginable lengths to get a foul ball. They drop their kids. They knock people over.

Sometimes, they lean over the rail.

Too far over the rail.

It happened at tonight's game between Oakland and Texas. Josh Hamilton threw a foul ball to a guy in the first row of the left field seats. From the reports I've read, the guy caught the ball, but leaned too far forward in the process. He fell about 20 feet and landed head first. He was conscious and asked for someone to help his son, still in his seat above. He later died as a result of his injuries.

The arrow shows the general area where the man fell. My co-worker, who wouldn't know a foul ball from a grand slam, asked why there isn't a net in that gap between the wall and outer and inner walls. I said it was probably because no one thought they needed one.

I feel sorry for his son that he saw what happened to his father. I feel terrible for his family, that they'll have to try to move on in the wake of this needless tragedy. I also feel bad for the game of baseball. Even when your team loses, a trip to the ballpark is supposed to be fun and enjoyable. This casts a dark cloud over the ballpark.

Lastly, I feel terrible for Josh Hamilton. It wasn't his fault the man fell, but I'm sure he feels awful. I hope he can recover from this unfortunate tragedy. Not for how this might affect his play on the field, but for how it might affect his personal life. We all know the Josh Hamilton story. I hope this is something he and the family can work through.

I also hope people can see it's just a baseball. Getting a "game-used" baseball is fun, but it's certainly not worth dying for.


  1. This certainly isn't Josh Hamilton's fault. And I've been to several stadiums where this is a possibility. I've seen people dangerously lean over the railings or stand on it while trying to catch a ball. I know better than to try to lean over the railings, but I did drop my hat down between the wall and the seats at Turner Field once. A net would have fixed that.

    As your co-worker said, the real solution is a net. The most likely solution we'll see is a higher railing, which will get in the way of more fans and decrease the enjoyment of the game. A net would serve the purpose better.

    I believe the gap is there to provide access to the back of the electronic scoreboards in most cases. I'm sure it's also there to dissuade fans from jumping on the field. I guess a net wouldn't help that, but it would keep fans from falling 20 feet to their death.

    I hope this event causes some changes - namely, closing that gap with a net or cover to prevent this from happening again. I also hope this doesn't negatively affect fans' access to the game via things such as batting practice, and players tossing balls to fans in the stands.

    As you say, it's just a baseball. I have a collecting goal to obtain one baseball from each franchise (major league or minor league), but I know better than to fight for a ball or do crazy jumping or leaning to obtain it. There's always another game. If you want a game ball that much, I've seen them for sale in most team stores, and then they have the MLB authenticated hologram to prove it's real.

    I feel sorry for the family and hope they can move on, and the same for Hamilton and other players who may reflect upon this.

  2. Ryan, I agree the gap is necessary there, but I've sat there before and never felt like I was in danger of going over the rail, even when a home run was coming close. I've gotten a few balls over the years and it's always a kick to get one, but it's weird to see the lengths people will go to for one. I know the Rangers sell them in the gift shops. Last year they had generic game used (maybe BP) balls for $9 I think. They also have certified balls that were hit by certain players. Of course they cost more.

  3. Agreed. It just seems these days there needs to be more ways to protect those who lose common sense. I've made it a point to "mind the gap" when I'm in a location like that, but people are overconfident and become excited in the moment. Knowing a net was there might keep people from leaning over the rail so much, and just catch the ball off the net.

  4. Protecting those who lose or don't have common sense is a whole post in itself. I know a lot of people like that and it's frightening that they've made it this far!

    "Mind the Gap". Sounds like the recordings I heard in the London Tube a few years back.

  5. There's a similar saying here for the bay area "BART" system. There's one of those stick figure graphics showing a guy bending over staring at the space between the platform and the train. Genius.

  6. What a tragedy. I'm sure he was going to great lengths to catch the ball for his son. Incredibly sad. I'm sure the Rangers will do something to fix the gap - a net perhaps or something to fill the unnecessary space. It could have happened on any ball hit over that wall too.

  7. This is a very sad occurrence, thanks for the perspective picture.

  8. My understanding is that he died from a heart attack he suffered on the way to the hospital. Not sure if that was brought on by his injuries or not. Still tragic. Excellent post.

  9. The first thing I thought when I heard the news was what Josh Hamilton is feeling. I know it wasn't his fault, but I can't help but think he may feel somewhat responsible.

    I didn't realize the guy's son was right there to witness the whole thing. Wow...just hard to imagine what the family will be going through in the future.