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Wise: Until fan safety becomes more important than fan experience, more 4-year-olds will get hit at MLB games

In the wake of another disturbing video gone viral of a child crying in the stands of a game after being hit by a foul ball, baseball again hears calls for change.
Credit: Associated Press

WASHINGTON — One of the rites of spring and early summer for any young child taken to a baseball game is bringing your glove — and then hoping beyond hope that a catchable foul ball comes your way.

If you can snag that ball, it will become a souvenir for life.

But now childhood nostalgia at the ballpark is going, going ... gone. A 4-year-old girl, sitting 10 feet beyond the safety netting down the third base line, was taken to a hospital after a Cubs player's line-drive foul ball made the sport go deathly quiet Wednesday night in Houston. 

She was seriously hurt.

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Cubs' center fielder Albert Amora Jr. was so shaken when he saw the girl fall that he fell to his knees at home plate and began crying.

A year after Major League Baseball announced all 30 teams would extend protective netting from behind home plate to the far end of the dugouts, many ballparks have yet to do so. And that edict only happened after a toddler hit by a foul ball suffered a brain bleed at Yankee Stadium in 2017.

Did we mention the woman who died at Dodger Stadium in August? Or that almost 2,000 fans are injured by broken bats and hit balls each season, outnumbering players on the field actually hit by pitches?

Finally, did we mention that fans in Japan don't have these concerns because the Japanese league surrounds its stadiums with 360 degrees of safety netting?

SEPT. 2: Boston police: Fan hit by broken bat expected to survive

Look, the fan experience is still the highest priority for Major League Baseball because it translates to revenue streams. It’s why owners are considering banning the defensive shift that prevents great hitters from often getting on base.

But fan safety has got to be No. 1 from now on.

It’s not just because we live in a gone-viral world that overreacts to every disturbing video shared. It’s because if the grand, old game is ever going to recapture the nostalgia and popularity it once held in America, it needs to make itself absolutely child-proof for its next generation of fans.

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