August 07, 2019

U.S. Senators Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth ask MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred for more data on ballpark fan injuries

Source: Chicago Tribune


U.S. Sens. Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth of Illinois have written Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred for the second time in six weeks, this time asking MLB “to collect and report data” about ballpark fan injuries.

“This will provide a more honest public dialogue and help protect baseball’s biggest — and littlest — fans,” the two Democrats wrote in their letter Tuesday.

They said it is their understanding teams collected data on seating areas that are most vulnerable to injury from line-drive foul balls and flying bats.

“Disclosing that information would help inform fans and their families about the safest locations to sit,” Durbin and Duckworth wrote, saying that “transparency benefits everyone in making informed decisions and preserves the integrity of the game.”

Durbin and Duckworth wrote Manfred on June 27 to urge all MLB clubs to follow the White Sox, the first team to extend netting to the foul poles to protect spectators.

MLB teams extended netting to at least the far end of the dugouts in 2018. But recent incidents have spurred some teams to expand the protected area.

This has not been universally embraced by fans, however, and Manfred has said varying designs of ballparks such as Wrigley Field make it difficult to mandate action across MLB.

The Cubs, citing architectural challenges and Wrigley’s landmark status, are among the teams that say they aren’t sure what they’re going to do or when.

A Cubs spokesman said extending the netting to the end of the dugouts reduced the injuries by 60% in 2018 compared with 2017.

In their earlier note to Manfred, Durbin and Duckworth cited a 2014 analysis by Bloomberg News that found 1,750 major-league fans are injured each year, primarily by foul balls and broken bats. They now seek an update.

“While the Bloomberg report provides some insight into fan injuries at MLB baseball stadiums, the report is five years old, and we need more information to have a fuller picture,” they wrote. “We currently rely on media coverage about foul ball injuries, which can lead to misinformation and confusion.

“Fans should have more information about injuries. The creation of an injury registry would help provide the public a better understanding of fan injuries at MLB stadiums and help evaluate the voluntary safety measures that many teams are implementing.”

By:  Phil Rosenthal