Let’s hope the tears in Todd Frazier’s eyes, and the emotion that caused his voice to crack as he recalled the sight of his foul ball hitting a young girl in the face, finally will convince the Yankees to make the Stadium safer for their fans.
Before someone gets killed next time.
“I thought of my kids, you know,” Frazier was saying in the clubhouse, tearing up as he spoke. “I have two kids under three years old.”
Frazier had to pause momentarily to compose himself, and even then had trouble continuing.
“Just hope she’s all right,” he said softly.
Such was the mood in the Yankee clubhouse on what otherwise would have been a day to celebrate a 11-3 win and a sweep of the Twins. Every win is huge for this team as it chases the Red Sox for the AL East title, and yet Frazier’s line-drive into the seats down the third-base line made the game seem secondary, even to the players. “We’re praying for the kid,’’ Chase Headley said. “To have to see that, it’s really sickening.”
“She’s all right. Keep her in your thoughts,” said the little girl’s dad, who didn’t give his or his daughter’s name. “She knows she got hit by a baseball. She’s just happy they hit home runs.”
The girl’s family told reporters Wednesday night that she and her mom would be staying overnight at the Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital at New York Presbyterian Hospital. Frazier’s liner, which came off the bat at 105.2 mph, according to MLB Statcast, struck a young girl, estimated by fans in the area to be three or four years old, in the face. She was close enough to the field that players could see what happened, as fans immediately began signaling for help, and the game was stopped for about five minutes while medical personnel attended to the young girl.
Players looked distraught, especially Frazier, as he went to a knee and bowed his head at one point. “It was terrible,’’ he said. “It shakes you up a little bit. It was tough to watch, tough to be a part of.”
According to a statement issued by the Yankees, the girl received medical attention at a local hospital. Joe Girardi said he was told by security people that the girl was “doing OK,” while the Yankees, citing HIPPA laws in what has become common practice in these incidents, said they could provide no further information. The girl’s grandmother told The News that, as far as she knew, the child would not need surgery.
The underlying issue, of course, is the protective netting that 10 major-league teams, including the Mets, have extended to at least the far end of each dugout. The Mets’ netting extends to the far ends of the camera wells beyond the dugout, which, in this case, likely would have protected the girl from injury, considering the angle of the ball off the bat.
Less than two months ago Aaron Judge hit a 105-mph missile just beyond the first-base dugout that injured an adult man in similar fashion, prompting more calls for the Yankees to follow the Mets’ lead and extend their netting at the Stadium. However, when a child is involved it often stirs more emotion. The Phillies’ Freddy Galvis was very outspoken last season after hitting a child with a foul ball, and people close to the situation there believe his comments convinced the ballclub to extend their netting last offseason. You have to hope this will have a similar effect on the Yankees, and perhaps MLB commissioner Rob Manfred, who before the 2016 season recommended clubs extend their backstop netting to the near ends of the dugouts rather than mandate they do it. On Wednesday, in fact, Headley indicated that players are frustrated with MLB for not taking more action on this matter. “It was brought up years ago,” Headley said. “Trust me, the players have made it known they’ve wanted it for a long time.”
Judge, who has hit the four hardest-recorded fair balls this season, was succinct when asked about adding more netting. “We need it,” he said.
Headley said fans don’t realize how fast such foul balls are coming into the stands, and how little time they have to react. Frazier said that’s what he saw as he followed the flight of his ball toward the girl.
“The dad, or whoever it was, was trying his hardest (to protect her),” he said, “but the ball’s coming probably 120 miles an hour at him, and it’s hooking. If you’ve never seen a ball like that, which most people in the world haven’t, it’s very tough. So I think the netting should be up. I think every stadium should have it but we’re not at that point yet, so hopefully they take a look at this and figure something out.”
After the game, the Twins’ Brian Dozier called for stricter safety measures. “One, you don’t bring kids down there or two, every stadium needs to have nets. That’s it,” said a visibly distraught Dozier. “I don’t care about the damn view of the fan. It’s all about safety. I still have knots in my stomach.”
It’s beyond time. For a number of reasons that I have detailed in several Daily News columns over the last two years, everything from cell phones to more intimate seating at ballparks to the same higher exit velocity that has produced the most home runs ever hit in a season, fans are more vulnerable to injury. And while the Mets deserve kudos for doing more to protect their fans, they reacted only after City Councilman Rafael Espinal threatened both New York teams with the introduction of a bill that would force them to have netting all the way to the foul pole on each side. Espinal was hoping the Yankees would react in similar fashion, but so far there has been no indication they are moving in that direction. As such Espinal, who chairs the NYC Council Committee on Consumer Affairs, is going forward with his bill, having scheduled a public hearing on Oct. 25 at City Hall.
After Wednesday’s incident Espinal issued a statement that, in part, said, “We have been waiting to hear from the Yankees on their plans and how they will move forward, and urge them to let the public know as soon as possible where they stand.”
I have to believe that Wednesday’s incident, and the emotion it provoked from their players, will prompt some type of action from the Yankees. Surely they don’t want someone to die before they do the right thing.