How not to die at a Baseball Game
July 18, 2019 4:54 PM   Subscribe

Annette Choi at FiveThirtyEight charted where 906 foul balls landed. She's clearly mapped out the most dangerous places to sit.
posted by meech (16 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
It's good to see this, thank you for linking it. It's surprising what a labor-intensive project it clearly was. It's sort of surprising the teams/stadiums don't have this information.

It's been really interesting to see the progression on this issue the last few years. I was listening to a game the other night and the announcers started in on "oh, the league's talking about more netting," and it sounded like it was going to be one of those old-timers bemoaning today's wimpy ways, kind of conversations. But no, all three announcers were like, yeah, that needs to happen. I feel like there's been a real 180 on this.

Are more people getting hurt worse because of higher exit velocities? Or is it just, the most hyper-conservative culture elements in baseball are aging out and so more changes are possible?
posted by LobsterMitten at 5:10 PM on July 18 [4 favorites]

I feel terrible for the folks hurt, especially the kiddos and their families. I was contemplating what a "range safety officer" for a baseball stadium might be able to do, and what tools might be at their disposal...the idea of self-exploding baseballs or some sort of anti-baseball missile system is kinda amusing, but netting is undoubtedly the way to go.

Or maybe just a bunch of Evan Longoria clones to protect us.
posted by maxwelton at 5:12 PM on July 18 [1 favorite]

A foul ball will do a lot more damage depending on where it lands, and how fast, as much as how often. From the POV of a data scientist, I'd suggest that the main heatmap might have delivered a lot more information with no less clarity, with just a bit more work. Combining it with a dot plot, for example, would have been useful to communicate the severity of injury or many other dimensions of equally relevant and useful data: ball velocity, for instance, could just as easily been added here. Or a slider would let the viewer see how the heatmap densities change from season to season, to show how wider use of safety netting over time helps lower the number of impacts and reduces serious injuries and death. Interesting article, but a bit disappointing in that respect.
posted by They sucked his brains out! at 5:37 PM on July 18 [2 favorites]

My guess, for what it's worth, is that the increase in foul ball injuries is due to "three true outcomes" baseball. The sport has changed such that balls are hit into play less than ever. There are more strikeouts and more home runs. Walks, strikeouts, and home runs correlate to longer at bats, and longer at bats mean hitters fouling off more pitches.
posted by chrchr at 5:39 PM on July 18 [2 favorites]

People being blinded? Broken facial bones and seizures in babies?
Netting in front of ALL seats. Yesterday.
posted by KleenexMakesaVeryGoodHat at 5:42 PM on July 18 [2 favorites]

Maybe MLB needs to step up its free batter's helmets promotions. Or maybe catcher's masks.
posted by Bee'sWing at 6:04 PM on July 18

Here's a clip from HBO Real Sports showing how they do things at the Tokyo Dome, which has had netting all the way to the foul poles since it opened in 1988. Ushers stationed in each section alert fans of any incoming foul ball by pointing hand-held whistles along the trajectory.

There are a few seats in front of the netting along the foul lines, referred to as 'excite seats'. Fans in these sections are provided with gloves and helmets.
posted by theory at 6:36 PM on July 18 [5 favorites]

More netting would also mean fewer incidents of fans sniping balls in play from fielders.
posted by ardgedee at 7:31 PM on July 18 [2 favorites]

It’s stupid to think netting is obviated by the “watch for batted balls” language on your ticket contract. Eventually someone “important” will get brained and a pittance will be spent on netting, after millions go out in damages.
posted by toodleydoodley at 8:45 PM on July 18

The NHL added nets above the 10 or 12 foot glass that envelopes the rink, but only on the ends behind the goals, after a child was killed by an errant puck (at a Carolina Hurricanes game, iirc). Elsewhere the puck regularly skirts over the glass and into the crowd, causing destruction and mayhem.

I’d be interested in a similar study of NHL rinks. It’s been my experience at Staples Center, where the LA Kings play, that “Puck Alley” is that area just half a section off from the centerline and down toward the face off dots on either side, rows 11 to 16, which corresponds to the height of the glass.
posted by notyou at 9:37 PM on July 18 [1 favorite]

Huh, that's really interesting. This is a thing I've idly wondered about a few times, similarly to what the injury and damage rate is for golf courses in cities. 1700+ injuries a year is a surprising number to me; though I realize most of those aren't as severe as the standout examples in the article, that's...still an awful lot. With the size of the league and the length of seasons, isn't that roughly an injured fan just about every game on average?

And I agree with They sucked his brains out! that the ballpark visualization was disappointingly opaque. They collected a lot of data and that particular diagram felt like kind of a thud of a delivery, though the rest of the article did a good job of laying out the findings.

The combination of no netting and high-velocity landing zones is a nasty one indeed. I can see how the initial logic of netting the close seats would get ballparks there, but it's not like line drives and shallow fly balls are a new development.
posted by cortex at 10:58 PM on July 18

From the article: "Bloomberg News estimated in 2014 that 1,750 fans per year are hurt by batted balls at MLB games."

"Based on official numbers from the league, attendance [in 2018] was 69,625,244 over 2,415 dates, or an average of 28,830 per game. "
posted by kirkaracha at 7:52 AM on July 19

The NHL added nets above the 10 or 12 foot glass that envelopes the rink, but only on the ends behind the goals, after a child was killed by an errant puck (at a Carolina Hurricanes game, iirc). Elsewhere the puck regularly skirts over the glass and into the crowd, causing destruction and mayhem.

Hockey is also exciting enough that you can theoretically watch the entire game intently. Not so true with baseball.
posted by srboisvert at 8:05 AM on July 19 [1 favorite]

It's sort of surprising the teams/stadiums don't have this information.

I imagine that if they do have this information, they're keeping it secret to avoid it being used against them.
posted by ZeusHumms at 10:26 AM on July 19

The speed of sound works hard against anyone trying to carry water for the personal responsibility narrative. The most dangerous balls are precisely the ones that give the least warning to spectators.

No, the balls don't exceed the speed of sound, but even a couple hundred milliseconds delay in hearing the crack of bat and ball is enough to double a person's reaction time over what it would be were they watching intently. That makes it pretty hard to argue this is an issue of personal responsibility, especially when there is a stadium full of screens, vendors, and whatever else competing for attention even as the game is actively played.

Legally speaking, it seems pretty unreasonable to me that they can get away with disclaiming responsibility for injury resulting from line drive fouls. I can see room for argument over fly balls with significant hang time, but that in no way excuses them from responsibility for someone getting hit in the face by a line drive because they didn't want to put up nets along the foul lines. It's a plainly foreseeable hazard that the public clearly does not fully appreciate, given the fact that it is newsworthy when someone is seriously injured.
posted by wierdo at 11:59 AM on July 19 [1 favorite]

> Eventually someone “important” will get brained

If this didn't do it, I don't know what will.
posted by The corpse in the library at 12:02 PM on July 19

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