Baseball fans are reacting after a young girl was hit by a foul ball during a game Wednesday night.
A line-drive, off the bat of Chicago Cubs player Albert Almora Jr., rocketed into the stands at Houston’s Minute Maid Park. A 4-year old girl was struck, silencing the crowd and bringing Almora to tears.
What happened in Houston has resonated in Connecticut. The Hartford Yard Goats don’t want to see any of their fans get injured.
“We do PA announcements and we put up signage,” said Tim Restall, Yard Goats president. “We extended our netting last year. Minor league baseball has requirements and we’ve exceeded those requirements.”
Protective netting at Dunkin Donuts park surrounds the backstop and extends down the first and third baselines, just beyond the dugouts. This is the area where some of the hardest line drives are hit. Even with the netting, fans siting in these sections during Thursday’s game understand the need to pay attention.
“The first thing is to check where the ball is going and make sure the kids are out of harm’s way for sure,” said Adam Mehan of Broad Brook.
Asked how safe he feels, Patrick Claffey, an 8-year old from Windsor Locks, was confident.
“I feel really safe because I have a glove and I can protect my face.”
Having a quick glove though may not be enough. The line drive hit by Almora Jr was estimated to have a velocity near 90 mph, which is typical even at minor league parks.
“It’s though with these kinds of parks, you’re right on the action,” said Patrick’s father Brian, who says he brings a glove to every game as protection.
Claffey, though, has confidence the Yard Goats are doing almost everything they can to insure safety.
“I think they’re doing as good a job as they can,” he said. “Maybe the nets could go a little further. I’ve seen some parks extend them down the line a little bit.”
The Yard Goats point out they have a large percentage of their seats behind netting, including behind home plate.
Furthermore, Restall says, “any fan that comes to the game that doesn’t feel comfortable in their seat, we can relocate them to another seat.”
Fans at high school fields have also taken notice.
“I saw a replay of it last night. Scary,” said Bert Leventhal of Hamden. “You get goose bumps quick.”
Leventhal has seen countless baseball games. He coached high school ball for 28 years, and knows, regardless of the level, fans need to pay attention.
“You’ve got to be alert all the time. Things do happen,” added Leventhal. “Whether it’s a bat or a ball you have to be careful.”
Fans gathered in Cheshire for today’s state tournament game. There, like many High School fields, the first baseline area is protected with fencing, providing a sense of security for those in the bleachers.
Steve Scialabba was among those attending the Cheshire game. He coached for 24 years after his playing time with the University of Hartford concluded. Watching Almora, Jr.’s emotional reaction was something he could understand.
“As a player you can’t worry about that,” said Scialabba. “Obviously when it happens, it’s incredibly devastating because nobody walks up there wanting to hurt anyone on the field.”