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Debate over Netting at MLB Parks Expected Following News of Death Related to Foul Ball Injury

20 Feb, 2019

By: Mary Helen Sprecher

The confirmed death of a fan in Dodger Stadium following a head injury from a foul ball – which barely made it over the top of the protective netting surrounding the stands – has reawakened the long-running debate over fan safety and ballpark responsibility. And with baseball season only weeks away, count on this to be on the minds of event owners.

In the case of Linda Goldbloom, any protective actions taken will come too late. The mother of three and grandmother of seven died in August. The cause of her death, according to ESPN, was an intracranial hemorrhage she sustained on August 25.

The coroner’s results were made public only a short time ago, which is the reason sports fans didn’t hear much about it until now. ESPN noted:

“Television coverage of the Padres-Dodgers game that night did not follow the flight of the ball or show where it ended up. No media outlet has reported what happened, but Goldbloom's family didn't keep it a secret and included this sentence in e-mail notifications on the day she died: While the end came suddenly by a foul ball at Dodgers (sic) Stadium, she had a long beautiful and blessed life."

Ironically, Goldbloom’s injury took place during the the first season in which all 30 major league teams had protective netting extending from behind home plate to at least the far ends of both dugouts to safeguard especially vulnerable sections of stadiums' lower bowls. MLB didn't mandate such extensions but had issued recommendations.

The reason nothing was formally required: MLB didn’t want to undo or put at risk a century-old piece of legalese that ostensibly blocks fans from suing a ball club if they were to be injured by a foul ball or a shattered bat. The wording states that fans accept the risk of injury at a ballgame because they know batters will occasionally hit balls into the grandstands. This verbiage, in fact, appears on all MLB tickets.

But in 2017, when a toddler was struck in the face with a ball, causing life-threatening damage, many teams took action and extended their netting. ESPN, however, notes that fans say many spring training, MiLB ballparks and college venues have not been held responsible for these measures.

Goldbloom’s daughter, Jana Brody, told ESPN she can only hold out hope that her mother's death will bring about a re-evaluation of the netting, and ultimately, increases in its height and width, according to ESPN, “perhaps using Japan's more extensively netted stadiums as examples, especially in an era of bigger and stronger players, higher velocity and launch-angle projectiles, and more and more distractions for people attending games.”

Geoff Jacobson, the father of the toddler who was injured in 2017, has publicly stated his opinion that netting should reach the top of the foul pole, as in Japanese ballparks. "Why did they stop where they stopped?" he said. "It seems arbitrary."

"I'd love to see the netting extended vertically, and we know it doesn't block the view," Brody said. "Raise it a little higher -- what's the hurt in that?"

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