As spring training games in Arizona and Florida are getting underway in front of long awaited crowds, the major concerns among fans will pertain to Covid-19 safety. While this is the biggest worry, fans safety from getting hit by foul balls is another ongoing issue that gets overlooked. Yet, this too is a real safety concern. Despite little media attention and no clear response from Major League Baseball since the last article I published on the issue in December, the group Foul Ball Safety Now remains resilient in their push for increased netting at all stadiums.
Foul Ball Safety Now is a campaign spearheaded by Brooklyn realtor and lifelong baseball fan Jordan Skopp. Back in a December press conference, Skopp was joined by Erwin Goldbloom, the widower of Linda Goldbloom. Linda Goldbloom died after being hit in the head by a ball that sailed over the protective netting down the first base line at Dodgers stadium in 2019.
“The teams didn’t put it into paper or come out and say a lady was killed last night in the game. No press was involved,” said Goldbloom. “It wasn’t until ESPN broke the story. She was killed in August and the story didn’t break until January.”
Unfortunately, this is not the first time the issue has been slow to reach the public’s eye. It is an issue that has loomed over the game for decades now. An issue in which MLB has taken gradual steps to address over the past few seasons. There has been partial increased netting down the foul lines, but the league still has not fully constructed safe enough netting everywhere.
Several young victims of foul ball maiming in the head joined Goldbloom in coming forward about their experiences of when they got hit in the head by foul balls, and the horrific team responses.
In 2011, at the age of four, Alexis Hoskey was attending a Kansas City Royals game. Her life would never be the same in an instant.
“We were behind third base like behind the dugout, pretty far back. I think it was around the bottom of the first inning and Wilson Betemit stepped up to hit and it hit above my left eyebrow” recalls Hoskey. “A couple of months ago, we started to notice some more issues with my memory. So we decided to get it tested. I actually have ADHD because of this head trauma.”
Alexis’s father Monty Hoskey, who witnessed his daughter’s injury firsthand, asked nothing more than for the Royals to cover medical bills. However, all the team did as a “nice gesture,” was give her an old gift basket. They basically tried to cover-up any responsibility. Hoskey is just one example of a team taking shortcuts around holding themselves accountable.
Alexis Pavlinec, who also attended the most recent press conference, was 10-years-old when she was struck by a foul ball at a Jersey Shore BlueClaws minor league baseball game. She suffered a broken nose and fractured skull which could have been a lot worse had she not turned away from the ball in time according to doctors. Pavlinec’s dad Ken Pavlinec tried to get the team to act.
“I tried to cause some change going forward and I stopped at the ballpark unannounced three times over the next eight months,” said Ken Pavlinec in describing his meeting with the team general manager. “Their reconciliation to the story which really angered me more than anything was, they wanted to send the team mascot to my house. My daughter didn’t need that at the time. He said that they had three kids running operations at the time. He quoted ‘kids’, meaning they had no experience.”
Pavlinec’s story paints another grim picture of the guilt, where they fabricated their role in the incident and need for action. It was not until January of 2020 that the BlueClaws announced that they would extend netting all the way down the reserved seating area. MLB did announce in 2019 that all stadiums would see extended netting. However, they are yet to take clear action in mandating netting all the way down the foul line at all ballparks. The most troubling part is that spring training ballparks are far from being up to par with netting. Yet they are allowing fans back in the crowd.
The two stories told, along with that of Stephanie Wapenski who had to receive 40 stitches after being hit in the head at Fenway Park, are just a small sample size of individuals maimed by foul balls. Kids especially have been vulnerable. At major league ballparks alone, 39 children were seriously injured by foul balls between 2008-2019.
Spring Training Demands To Governors Of Arizona And Florida
The biggest matter at hand to confront right now, lies in the states of Arizona and Florida. While spring training games are getting underway, Skopp has tried to get ahead of addressing this mess before yet another fan experiences tragedy at the ballpark.
About a year ago Skopp called all 30 spring training facility box offices in Arizona and Florida. He found out that 16 out of the 30 teams (11 of the stadiums due to teams sharing facilities), do not have safety netting beyond the end of the dugouts. Safety to the end of the dugouts does not offer substantial enough protection and Monty Hoskey can attest to that.
“At that time, the netting didn’t even go to the end of the dugout,” said Hoskey, recalling the 2011 incident at Kauffman stadium in Kansas City . “There is no reason why it shouldn’t go to at least the end of the dugout, and in some ballparks further. I think there needs to be an independent group that looks at every stadium”
In hopes of moving forward, Skopp wrote a letter to governors Doug Ducey of Arizona and Ron DeSantis of Florida. In his letter he demanded that the two inspect each of the facilities in their states to ensure that appropriate safety netting has been installed, before allowing fans back into the stands.
As fans trickled back into the stands on Sunday for the first games, Skopp is yet to hear from either governor. This should only ignite the group’s fire. They will not stop in advocating until fans everywhere have a safe enough environment to enjoy the game. More and more victims of these injuries are coming forward in agreement with Skopp that we cannot wait until the next maiming experience for an independent council to intervene.
“I am not gonna say any of those ballparks are safe, until an independent netting council comes in and says, ‘you are not gonna be maimed today have a good day,’ said Skopp. “We would like to see something posted in all of these ballparks that guarantee us more or less a safe experience.”
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