Tuesday, August 25, 2015

‘Keep your eye on the ball’ some good advice for fans as well as ballplayers

Listening to Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon talk this weekend about how fans attending ballgames ought to pay more attention to the field reminded me of a pair of game-goers I met over a decade ago.

Too many fans act as though they're bobble-heads
That particular couple was sitting right in front of me at U.S. Cellular Field for a game against the Boston Red Sox. He was a Massachusetts native who married a South Side girl, and they now lived here.

FOR THIS PARTICULAR game, they brought their newborn son – who was clad in a Red Sox cap and White Sox-logoed pajamas. It was the first game they ever brought him to, and they were overly obsessed with taking all kinds of pictures of their son at the ballpark.

Which is cute. It is understandable.

But it also struck me then as being reckless, because we all were sitting just a few rows up from the field down the third base line. It was prime territory for someone who would want to catch foul balls hit into the stand during the game.

It was a likely place for some right-handed pull hitter to crack a line drive that would go screaming into the stands. One that would wind up sending a person to the hospital if they weren’t ready for it and capable of either catching the ball cleanly, or ducking to get out of the way!

FORTUNATELY, NO LINE drives came too close. One ball did land about 10 seats away. But I didn’t get the up-close view of an infant being bashed by a baseball.

Sunday wasn’t so lucky.

During the Cubs’ game against the Atlanta Braves, a woman sitting near the camera well on the first base side got hit by a line drive into the stands. Badly enough that she had to be taken to an area hospital.

Which led to Maddon’s comments about how fans, particularly those in the prime seats near the infield, ought to pay attention to what happens on the playing field. That would at least give them a chance at avoiding harm if a line drive were cracked toward their heads.
Are those fans in stands? Or targets for line drives?
IT’S THE LITTLE lie that too many people attending ballgames want to believe – softly lobbed drives into the stands. Instead of something smacked hard that WILL inflict pain and cause bone-crushing damage (particularly to the skull) if there is physical impact.

I remember the closest I ever came to having a ball hit to me it came so fast that my reflexes were too slow to react. A good thing for me that the ball wound up going about eight feet to my left – and somebody else wound up getting their hand smashed!

The problem is too many people act like clowns and don’t pay attention.

If anything, all those video boards that exist in 21st Century stadiums wind up serving as a distraction. They motivate people to think they ought to be watching somewhere other than the infield.

WHICH IS SOMETHING I really don’t understand.

For the price of tickets these days (the last ballgame I went to about a month ago, the seats in the outfield were $40 apiece), you’d think people would want to actually watch the game – instead of whatever silly sponsor-driven stunt is being promoted that day.

If anything, it was the fact that my brother actually managed to catch himself a baseball at the game a month ago – the first ever in his life – that ought to be evidence that paying attention has its merits.

Either that, or we’re going to literally have to fence off the entire playing field to protect fans from their own refusal to watch out for themselves.


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