Sometimes, it is decided that people need to be saved from their own inability to protect themselves.
Such is the case at Wrigley Field where the Cubs will string protective netting beyond where the old bullpens used to be because people are seemingly incapable of shielding themselves from foul balls.
According to a study by ESPN’s Outside the Lines, 510 fans required assistance after being hit by foul balls at Wrigley Field from 2015-2019. That’s a little bit over one injury per game because fans were looking at their smart phones, talking to each other, or otherwise distracted from the infield action.
There is also the chance that young children were hit because parents prioritized sitting close to the field over the desire to protect their kids. Maybe adults unwisely dropped the kids in seats closer to the batter than they were so it was difficult to catch or deflect foul balls before they struck the youngsters.
Whatever the case, it seems personal responsibility is taking a holiday at Wrigley and other major league ballparks.
I have no problem with netting behind the plate – or even extending it to the dugouts. I’m a fairly adroit former ballplayer, and I’ve nearly been drilled on a number of occasions while sitting in the first couple of rows at Wrigley and Riverfront Stadium. I’m glad I wasn’t hit, but it would never occur to me that it was someone else’s fault had I been hit.
That’s how our society has evolved – responsibility always lies elsewhere. Nothing is our own fault anymore.
On the many afternoons my son and I spent at Wrigley before he was old enough to fend off foul balls for himself, we sat in the upper deck, way down the line, or the bleachers, and I always sat in the seat toward home plate so I could easily intercept the ball before it reached him.
I actually caught a foul ball during batting practice prior to a Cubs vs. Mets game while two-year-old Ryan was perched on my shoulders. Utilityman Tim Teufel curled a line drive around the end of the cage toward the Cubs bullpen. We were roughly where Steve Bartman sat during that fateful Game Six in 2003, and I reached over the brick wall to snag the ball. Ryan was parallel to the ground when I caught it, but I had a hold of his ankles, so all’s well that ended well.
Had the ball hopped up and hit Ryan in the head, I would still feel terrible about it. But I wouldn’t have blamed the Cubs for allowing me to put Ryan in a position to be struck. That would have been 100% on me.
The point is that people need to accept responsibility for their own stupidity once in a while, or we will assume that nothing bad is our own fault.
Major League Baseball and the Cubs are making it a little tougher for life to hold us accountable for being a dope. The result will be roughly 500 fewer bruises and breaks over the next five years, and a fanbase who sees their security as someone else’s concern.
Not sure whether society wins in that bargain.