MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - After numerous accidents involving foul balls and loose bats flying into the stands at baseball games, the issue of fan safety continues to be a growing concern in Major League Baseball.
Just last season, the Myrtle Beach Pelicans invested nearly $100,000 to extend their safety net around the ballpark seating, which helped protect multiple fans from a loose bat during Monday‘s game.
In just two pitches, Wilmington Blue Rocks outfielder Seuly Matias sent his bat spinning down the third baseline towards players and fans not once, but twice.
“You have to pay attention or you’ll get hurt,” said Pelicans team photographer Larry Kave.
Kave has been capturing iconic moments at baseball games for decades and watched the bat fly over his head in the dugout.
“I’ve been hit four or five times, once in the ribs that left the imprint of the ball, people don’t realize how fast it comes,” said Kave.
At the Pelicans Ballpark, nearly every seat is protected by the safety net expect for the outfield bleachers and a portion of left field.
Pelicans Assistant General Manager Mike Snow said although the net is in place to protect fans, they should be paying attention to the game and put the phones down.
“Balls are flying into the stand and they’re coming fast and you can’t react,” said Snow.
Right now, all major and minor league ballparks in the United States have some type of netting to protect fans behind home plate and sitting near the dug out.
But now fans, and even players, are asking Major League Baseball to consider extending the safety nets all the way to each foul pole like in Japan. It comes after last week’s terrifying accident where a foul ball, estimated to be going 90 mph, hit a child.
“I think it’s inevitable, nowadays you get sued for everything, plus it’s a good safety measure because people just don’t pay attention,” said Kave.
While it’s currently up to the individual team as to how far they want to extend their safety nets, most fans in Myrtle Beach said they’ve felt safe inside the ballpark.
“The beauty of baseball is that all ballparks are different so I think there’s some places it probably makes sense and places where it doesn’t make sense and it’s not necessarily a one-size fits all solution,” said Snow.
Several signs are placed throughout the park reminding fans about foul balls and flying but and to always pay attention.
“That’s when you get hurt when you don’t pay attention,” said Kave.
We also reached out to Coastal Carolina University about safety at Springs Brooke’s Stadium, which also has protective netting that runs down each dug out.
Coastal Carolina University Department of Athletics released this statement:
“In the process of the planning and building of our new baseball and softball stadiums, the University diligently acted to ensure that the University was proactive in the netting infrastructure that was installed in our facilities.
We work to prominently display signage and notices that remind and educate fans about the inherent risks of objects that may leave the playing field – foul balls, bats, or other equipment.
We make an effort to continually review our facilities as to what we can do differently or how we can improve the fan experience. We want all of our students, staff, faculty, alumni, fans, and guests to enjoy our events and have a fun and safe experience.”