A young girl was taken from Yankee Stadium on a stretcher Wednesday afternoon after being struck in the face with a line-drive foul ball off the bat of New York Yankees third baseman Todd Frazier. In an emotional scene, players for the Yankees and Minnesota Twins watched as she was carried from the ballpark and afterward Frazier called for additional netting to protect fans.
The incident occurred in the fifth inning of the Yankees’ afternoon game against the Twins. Frazier pulled a pitch sharply over the third-base line, then immediately crouched down, with his hands over his mouth, as he stared intently into the stands. Other players, including New York’s Matt Holliday, were seen wiping away tears, as play was delayed for several minutes while medical personnel attended to the toddler. She was whisked away by a man later identified as her grandfather and taken to New York-Presbyterian/Columbia Hospital.
He and a man who identified himself as the girl’s father spoke briefly with reporters and, when asked if she would need surgery, her father replied (via the New York Times): “It’s too early to tell.” The family’s name and the girl’s condition were not disclosed. However, a Yankee Stadium paramedic to whom The Times granted anonymity said that she appeared to have been struck in the nose and right eye.
“That was a screaming line drive,” Tom Barton, a fan who said he was seated three rows behind the girl, told The Times. “I just wanted to cry for this little kid. There was so much blood.”
At a postgame news conference, Yankees Manager Joe Girardi told reporters that the team “got a report that she’s okay.” He added, “Obviously, you could see the concern on everyone in the ballpark — the players, the umpires and the fans, and it’s disturbing when it happens, and it’s hard for a player when it happens.”
“It was terrible. I was shaken up,” a teary-eyed Frazier told reporters. “I don’t know what happened. I just hope she’s all right. It’s tough to watch. It’s tough to be a part of, honestly.”
Frazier said he thought “the nets should be up,” in Yankee Stadium and elsewhere, to help prevent more such incidents. “I think every stadium should have it,” he said (via NJ.com), “but we’re not at that point yet.”
“Very unfortunate. I saw the whole thing,” the veteran infielder continued. “The dad — or whoever was with them — was trying his best to protect her.”
MLB stats showed that the ball was traveling at over 105 miles per hour when it left Frazier’s bat and the toddler is at least the third person to be struck by either a batted ball or a shattered bat during a game at the Stadium. The netting ends at the home plate side of each dugout, and in August, the team said it was “seriously exploring extending the netting” for the 2018 season. That was shortly after an Aaron Judge foul ball left a man bloodied and in need of bandages on his head.
MLB recommends netting but leaves it up to teams to decide how much protection to give their fans. In July, the Mets became the 10th team to extend netting past the dugouts, following a New York councilman’s introduction of legislation that would compel all baseball teams in the city to extend protection to each foul pole.
“Every year approximately 1,750 fans are injured by foul balls and broken bats,” the councilman, Rafael Espinal, wrote in a May essay published by the New York Daily News. “Not only are these injuries preventable, but the MLB, Yankees and Mets have been slow to implement a simple solution that would prevent families’ fun-filled ballpark outings from turning into nightmares.”
“You hate to see anyone get hit like that. I don’t know, if the netting’s expanded, if they still don’t get hit, [or] how far does it go,” Girardi said Wednesday. “That’s something that, up above [in the Yankees’ front office], they make the decisions on, but it’s sad when you see people get hit. … It’s something that I think everyone’s looking into.”
Among the concerns that have been raised about extended netting include poorer visibility for fans, fewer opportunities to interact with players and fewer baseballs given away, but New York and Minnesota players asserted Wednesday that they would prefer to see greater safety precautions taken.
“I don’t care about the damn view of the fans, or what,” the Twins’ Brian Dozier said. “I still have a knot in my stomach. … We need nets, or don’t put kids down there.”