NEW YORK – His voice shaking, Todd Frazier said he thought of his own two children – both under the age of three – after lining a foul ball that struck a toddler in the face at Yankee Stadium.
“I just hope she’s all right,” Frazier said on Wednesday afternoon.
Yankees manager Joe Girardi was told by Stadium security staff that the young girl “was doing OK” after being taken to a local hospital. The jarring scene, and the concern for her well-being, was foremost on the Yankees’ minds after their 11-3 win against the Twins.
“It was terrible,” said Frazier, admittedly still “shaken up” by the fifth-inning incident. “It’s something I wished never happened. Tough to watch. Tough to be a part of.”
And it reopened the debate about whether MLB parks, such as Yankee Stadium, need to extend the protective netting to reduce such injury from foul balls.
“I think the netting should be up. I think every stadium should have it, but we’re not at that point yet,” Frazier said. “Hopefully, they’ll take a look at this and they’ll figure something out.”
After hooking a scorching, foul liner into the lower, left field seats, Frazier – who tracked the ball and saw its awful result – knelt outside the batter’s box, removed his helmet and bowed his head.
YES Network cameras caught Yankees designated hitter Matt Holliday wiping a tear as he stood at second base.
Instantly, fans and ushers in the area signaled for help. Play was halted for a few minutes in the hushed ballpark before the child was carried from the seating area, with a wrap held to one side of her mouth and cheek.
In a statement released during Wednesday’s ninth inning, the Yankees said that “the child who was struck with a batted ball today was given first aid at the ballpark and is receiving medical attention at an area hospital.”
The Yankees cited the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) as preventing the club from releasing more information and that “we have no further comment at this time.”
At Yankee Stadium, there is no protective netting that extends to the areas behind the dugout and beyond, as occurs during batting practice.
According to a recent Forbes article, the Yankees remain non-committal about the extension of such netting.
Earlier this year, New York City Councilman Rafael L. Espinal Jr. introduced a bill calling for the extension of protective netting from home plate to the foul poles in any city ballpark with a seating capacity of at least 5,000.
During a game this past May at Yankee Stadium, a young boy was struck in the head by a piece of Chris Carter’s broken bat that flew into the stands.
“It’s a scary part of the game we see. Unfortunately, every day there’s a chance something like that can happen,” said Brett Gardner, who watched from the dugout as Frazier’s tracer headed for the stands.
“I’m sure that’s something they’ll continue to look at and make changes,” Gardner said of the question of extending netting. “Not just here, but across the league. And I think it’s all for the best to protect the fans.”
During the All-Star break, the Mets extended their protective netting at Citi Field to cover the areas just behind the dugouts; Yankee Stadium’s netting stops at both dugouts.
As a Cubs catcher, Girardi said he’d once seen a male fan struck by a foul ball that put the man in a coma for a day or two, but he deferred to the Yankees’ executives as to the idea of extending fans’ protection.
“I’m all for making things as safe for everyone at the ballpark,” Girardi said, and there was no shortage of concern for the toddler who was struck.
“I could see the concern on everyone in the ballpark, the players, the umpires, the fans,” Girardi said. “And it’s disturbing when it happens and it’s hard for a player when it happens.”
Didi Gregorius recalled how a foul ball off his bat a couple of years ago struck a woman in the face “and they extended the netting” at Fenway Park as a result.
“You want everyone to be safe,” Gregorius said. “So, if they do want to extend the netting here, I think it would be a good idea, especially with kids sitting close.”
Frazier feels his little ones are protected at the ballpark, as long as they’re behind the nets or a significant distance away from harm.
Once play resumed, Frazier flied out but his mind was still fixed on that little girl.
“I saw the whole thing,” Frazier said, imaging being in the position of that child’s father “when a ball is coming 120 mph at them … the ball his hooking” and there’s virtually no time to react. “It’s very tough.”
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