PHOENIX - A string of scary injuries has prompted some Major League Baseball teams to extend the foul ball netting at stadiums, with the Arizona Diamondbacks most recently saying they will extend the netting.
If baseball fans are not paying attention, the foul balls can come in a hurry into the seats down the baselines, and an Average Joe could have little to no chance with some of the balls that get hit their way.
For fans, the foul ball can be one of the most fun and sometimes heartwarming experiences, but the dangers of foul balls seem to be getting more severe. A foul off the bat of Chicago Cubs outfielder Albert Almora Jr. hit a two-year-old girl in Houston. The girl was sitting down the third base line, and the family's attorney says it fractured her skull. In another incident, a 100-mile-per-hour plus screamer injured a little girl two years ago at Yankee Stadium, reportedly breaking bones and leaving imprints of the seams on the girl's head.
Meanwhile, at Dodgers Stadium, an elderly fan died after being hit last year, and another girl was hospitalized this year.
"You know in those like movies, when a bomb goes off and you hear an eerie sound and the scene starts to get fade-y, and everyone gets fuzzy, yeah, it's like that," said one person.
Foul ball netting extends to the end of each dugout at minimum, but a handful of teams, including the Dodgers, Astros and the White Sox, have committed to extending the netting for fan safety.
Almost 1,800 fans are hurt across Major League Baseball games every year because of foul balls. Some injuries are related to the scramble for the ball, while others are related to direct hits. Fans are given plenty of warning about the risks of balls and bats flying into the stands. The issue leaves many split between updating safety for changing times or keep it as is.
"I'm OK with it," said one fan. "There are a lot of people that don't pay attention, so I think it would help with that, you don't really want to get hit by a ball"
"I'm kind of against it," said another fan. "I'm not on my cell phone the whole time. The game's going on either."
Luke Teschner comes to a game about once a month with his three-year-old, Miles. He picks seats based on safety
"I think they should, it does block the view a little bit, but it's definitely safer for the game, especially with young kids," said Teschner.
Stacy Beltran caught a foul ball this season at Chase Field.
"It was fun," said Beltran. "I've been to a million ballgames and I never had a chance. It came right at me and it was an easy catch."
Beltran says she wouldn't have gotten that chance if the netting went from foul pole to foul pole.
"Not a fan. I think it'll do more harm than good, but it's everyone's views of the whole ballpark, so not a big fan," said Beltran.
During an experiment at the Hit Factory Training Center in Scottsdale, FOX 10's Matt Galka backed away to about 75 feet. Fans down the line at a game would be sitting approximately that far away. Manager Danny Lutz threw a ball at 95+ miles per hours, in an effort to see if FOX 10's Matt Galka can react to a ball.
At first, he was paying attention.
"That one I think I might've gotten. I think I would've gotten that one," said Galka.
And then, Galka was distracted, as if he was at a game. He said there was no chance of reacting to the ball.
For a lot of the pitches, the ball is hitting net before Galka was in any sort of position for a catch Lutz, a former player, hopes a solution lies somewhere in the middle.
"I see both arguments for sure," said Lutz. "I think there should be a little bit of an extension, but I don't know about down the foul line. Fan interaction with the player. That's part of the experience."
The Arizona Diamondbacks' netting runs from the end of one dugout to the other dugout currently. It's unknown how far they will extend the netting for next season.