Tigers make case for screens after fan hit by ball

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News

Detroit — Justin Verlander has been advocating for change on this issue for a long time. He’s even tried to bring it up to the MLB players’ association.

“It’s something that needs to be addressed. Immediately,” he said.

His point was never more illuminated than it was in the eighth inning Friday night. Left-handed hitting Anthony Gose was tardy on a 96 mph fastball from Rangers pitcher Keone Kela and laced a low line drive that just cleared the Tigers dugout and struck a female fan in the side of the head.

The game was delayed some seven minutes while paramedics tended to her. She was eventually carried out on a stretcher. She was conscious and transported to Detroit Receiving Hospital for X-rays and further testing.

“It seems like something happens once a game where a ball just misses a fan, and inevitably it seems like it’s small kids or women,” Verlander said. “It’s something that needs to be looked at. Hopefully it doesn’t get to a point where something really serious happens before there’s an adjustment made.

“That kind of thing happened in hockey. I think baseball needs to make an adjustment in a hurry.”

Verlander and other Tigers players think it’s time to extend protective netting to ends of the dugouts.

“I think you can extend them a little bit, and they don’t have to be super high,” Verlander said. “We have enough stats in this game, I think you can break down numbers and say ‘OK this is where you’re really in danger of the hard hit line drive, the low line drive that just misses the dugout.’

“I think the ones hit much higher than that are usually popped up or you’re not really in danger. But those low liners, they catch us off guard in the dugout and we’re major league baseball players. We still get hit. So, everybody else can be in serious danger.”

Part of baseball’s appeal is how close fans get to be to the game and the argument against extending the netting is that intimacy would be lost.

“Even if it is taken away, I think the safety of the fans is more important,” Nick Castellanos said. “I’m praying that lady is OK, and I know she wishes that net was up tonight.”

Castellanos is a proponent of the netting being extended at all levels of baseball.

“I remember in West Michigan, field-trip days — I’ve seen kids get hit, I’ve seen multiple fans get hit,” he said. “I don’t know what the cause is, why they haven’t done it yet, but I think for the safety of the fans, it’s necessary.

“If today doesn’t get nets up, what else is it going to take? I mean, look what happened in Boston to the lady that got hit with the broken bat. What else has to happen for nets to go up?”