Month: July 2011

Sinister Souvenirs

Recent Fan Falls Have MLB Considering New Safety Regulations

CROSS TIMBERS, Texas – Every child who has ever been to a baseball game has dreamed of getting a game-used ball. You see it at local youth and high school games where kids chase down fouls and home runs only to be heart broken when a player or coach comes to retrieve the ball. In the Majors, games are fueled by seemingly unlimited amounts of baseballs. So much so that the game-used ball has become one of the most idolized sports souvenirs, and it’s free – sometimes.

Recently fans have begun leaning too far over the railing to catch these “free” souvenirs risking life and limb for a ball that can be bought at many stores for under $20, but the memory and story that comes with catching a ball cannot be bought. I still remember the first and only time I caught a foul ball.

I was at a Frisco Roughriders game when Ian Kinsler popped a foul ball up just over the third base dugout. It was late in the game, and the stadium had begun to clear out. There were about three rows between me and the man in front of me. Leaning over these I caught the ball in the very tip of my glove. I still remember it perfectly. Everyone dreams of catching a ball, but new regulations may eliminate this from the fan experience.

After Josh Hamilton tossed a ball into the stands at Rangers Ballpark causing a fan to fall over the rail, Major League Baseball is considering implementing new rules to keep players from tossing balls to fans. This rule would do little to protect fans and greatly hurt the fan experience. A player tossing a ball to a fan is probably the safest way one could get a souvenir baseball. Of all the ways to get hurt at a ball game, players tossing balls to fans has to be at the bottom of the list.

Every year spectators are injured by foul balls either because they were unaware of the ball coming towards them, did not react quickly enough, or simply foolishly leaned over a rail or seats to catch it. Those balls can be moving over 100 miles per hour, and if one strikes a person in the head it can be very damaging. Even players have been hurt by batted balls. Pitchers are struck in the head on line drive come-backers and players line foul balls into the dugouts. Still the most dangerous souvenir has to be the thrown bat. Bats flying into the stands have become more and more common. People not paying attention to the game or trying to catch a piece of lumber hurtling towards them have caused injuries as well.

So should the entire field be screened in like the backstop? That would protect from bats, but foul balls can still be hit over the screen. Plus, if the entire field is enclosed then we would never see the amazing over-the-rail catches that are familiar on the highlight reels. If players are no longer allowed to toss balls to fans then the game will lose another bit of its charm that has attracted audiences for decades.

As it is, players have restrictions on when they can sign autographs. If fan interaction with the players is reduced further then fans may as well not go to a game at all. They can see the game from their couch at home. Then big league teams would lose money, be unable to pay players, and ultimately shut down. Without fan interaction there would be no Major League Baseball, so for its own sake baseball should not implement new rules restricting fans further. Yes, raise the railings but don’t limit player-fan interaction; it’s what baseball is built on.

To see this article as it was originally published in the Cross Timbers Gazette, click here


Has the All-Star Game Become a Non-Event?

Players Turn Down All-Star Honors

CROSS TIMBERS, Texas – This year 94 Major League Baseball players were selected to be All-Stars. Only 78 arrived in Phoenix to play.

Some were unable to play because of injuries; others simply decided they didn’t want to play; finally some pitchers were unavailable after starting games on Sunday. So has the game lost its meaning? In an event that is meant not only to showcase the best of the best but also to decide which league receives home field advantage in the World Series, why do some players not play?

Is home field advantage really that big a deal? Well, the team who has had home field advantage has won seven of the last ten World Series (excluding 2002 when the All-Star Game was ruled a tie). So in a game that can mean so much, why do the best of the best choose not to play?

The National League won this year on the back of their strong pitchers. The American League, however, was missing many of its incredible aces. While there was a strong showing from the young first timers who took the mound for the AL, some of the notable players such as Mariano Rivera were no shows. While the NL had all its big names in attendance from Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee to Tim Lincecum and Brian Wilson, you can’t help but wonder what the result would have been if the AL pitchers had chosen to contribute rather than refusing the honor of playing.

So if the Yankees make it to the World Series this year, do you think Derek Jeter will regret not making a difference in the All-Star Game? Maybe; he says he needs to rest his aching leg and be ready for the regular season games. Many players are taking this route of: “The regular season is more important than one all star game,” but they played for their club over the weekend so what makes them unable to play in one of baseball’s most prestigious games?

Granted, you have to win in the regular season games for the result of the All-Star Game to mean anything for your team, but pitchers who have been selected opting to throw on Sunday and not throw one inning in the All-Star Game is ridiculous, especially when your replacement has the same idea and backs out as well. So should players who choose not to play still be called All-Stars? Well, that’s a gray area.

Fans do choose the first nine players, but what about when fans vote for players who are going to be on the Disabled List? Maybe MLB should institute a rule that voids all votes for a player who is injured and will be unable (medically) to play. Then the second place players will be able to get their chance. Or say a third baseman is injured and unable to play, take the next four or five third basemen in the fan voting and allow fans to vote from among those finalists. After all, the purpose of fan voting is for fans to be able to see their favorite stars. Instead, as it stands, the manager just chooses one of his or the players’ choices for reserves to replace the fan vote or picks a new all-star all together.

Speaking of manager choices, should a player from each team really be required? What about teams who are way out of the competition with no stars yet their top player who is mediocre at best takes the place of a young star on a competing team who deserves the honor. Obviously Major League Baseball wants all their teams represented, but should that keep out players who really deserve the honor more than these lone team representatives?

So should we have 16 players who are called All-Stars yet didn’t play in the game or even attend? No. This year Major League Baseball implemented stars sewn onto the back of the players’ jerseys and hats to show which players were selected. Should the players who opted out be allowed to wear these stars? No, aside from injured players who were injured just before the game after being named to the team, players should only receive the stars for being on the all-star rosters AND attending the game. Whether or not they get off the bench and into the game is up to their respective managers, but if you pass up on the offer and don’t do the work of playing in the game you shouldn’t get the rewards of being called an All-Star.

To see this article as it was originally published on the Cross Timbers Gazette, click here