Yankee Victory Becomes Footnote After Girl Is Struck by Line Drive
The Yankees easily completed a three-game sweep of the Minnesota Twins on Wednesday and bolstered their bid for a postseason berth, but all of that was overshadowed by an unsettling incident in the fifth inning, when a line drive off the bat of Todd Frazier appeared to hit the face of a young girl who was seated directly behind the third-base dugout.
As players and fans grasped what had occurred, Yankee Stadium grew hushed and play was halted for several minutes. Frazier, the Yankees’ third baseman, knelt down, in clear distress. The Twins’ third baseman, Eduardo Escobar, stood still with both hands on his head. The Yankees’ third-base coach, Joe Espada, knelt, too, and held his helmet in his hands.
In the stands behind third base, stadium staff members hurried to the scene, and the girl, who was bleeding, was carried to an exit by a person later identified as her grandfather. She was taken to NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia Hospital, where, later in the evening, the girl’s father and her grandfather emerged to briefly talk with reporters.
The grandfather identified himself as a Yankees season-ticket holder. The father, when asked if his daughter would need surgery, said: “It’s too early to tell.” The family’s name was not immediately disclosed and no further information was provided about the girl’s condition.
The episode was at least the third time this season that a fan at Yankee Stadium had been struck by either a foul ball or a shattered bat during a game, and each instance has added to the debate about what Major League Baseball should do to better protect its fans.
Under the prodding of Commissioner Rob Manfred in 2015, all 30 teams agreed to extend the traditional protective netting behind home plate to at least the inner edge of both dugouts. About a third of the teams have extended the netting further, to at least the far end of the dugout, and the Mets added netting even beyond that.
If Yankee Stadium had netting in place that did stretch to the far end of the third-base dugout, Frazier’s line drive, in all likelihood, would not have reached the stands. As a result, Wednesday’s incident will almost certainly increase pressure on the Yankees to act quickly to make their netting longer.
New York City Councilman Rafael Espinal, who introduced legislation in May to require all New York City baseball stadiums to have protective netting all the way to the foul poles, said after Wednesday’s episode that he would hold a public hearing on the issue on Oct. 25.
“I commend the Mets for stepping to the plate and leading the country by extending their netting farther than any other team,” Espinal said in a statement. “We have been waiting to hear from the Yankees on their plans on how they will move forward and urge them to let the public know as soon as possible where they stand.”
According to a Yankee Stadium paramedic, who was not authorized to publicly discuss fan injuries, the girl appeared to have been struck by the ball in the nose and right eye and was bleeding when she was carried by her grandfather to a first aid station behind the stands.
“That was a screaming line drive,” said Tom Barton, a fan from San Francisco who said he was seated three rows behind the girl.
“I just wanted to cry for this little kid,” he added. “There was so much blood.”
Steve Beattie, who lives in Vancouver, British Columbia, said he was sitting about eight rows behind the girl and described what he witnessed as “brutal.”
According to the stadium scoreboard, the ball left Frazier’s bat at 106 miles per hour. “It was terrible,” Frazier said afterward. “It was something I wish had never happened. Very unlucky, man. I have two kids under 3 years old and I thought of them. I just hope she’s all right.”
Frazier and his teammates Chase Headley, Brett Gardner and C. C. Sabathia were in agreement that protective netting needed to be extended at Yankee Stadium, echoing statements that Mets players made after the Citi Field netting was expanded.
“I feel like we need to get the net,” said Sabathia, who said he insists his own children sit behind netting whenever they come to a game. “I think every ballpark should have it.”
Twins second baseman Brian Dozier said he cried when he saw the girl get hit. “I still have a knot in my stomach,” he said. “Every stadium needs to have nets. I don’t care about the damn view of the fan. It’s all about safety.”
Back in late July, after the Mets used the All-Star Game break to extend their protective netting about halfway into the outfield, the Yankees were asked for their reaction.
Lonn Trost, the team’s chief operating officer and general counsel, responded by saying the Yankees had begun talking to the Yankee Stadium architects about the feasibility of more netting. But he also noted that he received complaints from some fans who sit in box seats and who would have their views affected by additional netting.
“We have fans that are communicating with us that they are upset that we’re even considering it,” Trost said.
Not long after Trost made that comment, a fan at Yankee Stadium was hit in the head by a foul ball off the bat of Aaron Judge. And, coincidence or not, the Yankees a short while later published a statement on their website saying they were looking closely at a netting extension.
The third incident at Yankee Stadium this season occurred in May, when the barrel of a shattered bat struck a boy sitting about six rows from the field, just past the third-base dugout. He was taken from the stands holding a towel to his forehead.