Baseball is America’s pastime, yes. But the word "pastime" usually implies something pleasant that puts you at ease. And while being a fan in the stands at a major league baseball game is a lot of fun -- you can’t beat the wave, the seventh inning stretch, the hot dogs that don’t taste the same anywhere else -- I for one think it can be a little stressful as well.
Why? Those foul balls, man.
Unless you’re sitting in the outfield (aka, you’re in college and can only afford those $20 seats), you’re probably in line for a foul ball to be hit into your seat’s section. Sure, there are nets covering some parts of the stadium (the MLB only requires netting to extend immediately behind the catcher), but if that ball wants to fly toward your face, it’ll find a way.
Balls have even ended up in the press boxes way overhead.
But between watching your kids, flagging down the pretzel guy and getting a photo of the unreal sunsets over Fenway Park (I’m biased), there’s no way you’re paying attention to where the ball is being hit at every moment of a baseball game. And you’re probably all-too-familiar with the head snap that comes with hearing a bat connect with a ball as you were peeking down at your cell phone.
A study by researchers at Indiana University determined that every year, nearly 2,000 fans are injured by being hit with foul balls at baseball stadiums every year. That, apparently, is more common than the actual batters being hit by the pitchers -- and they wear helmets.
Japan has done a bit to combat the number of injuries via foul balls. While their stadiums are required to utilize more netting -- the protection extends for the length of the foul section -- they also have staffers on hand to blow horns and whistles when a foul ball is hit, and someone will jog over to sections that wayward balls land in to make sure all spectators are A-OK.
But they’ve also gotten creative. At the Tokyo Dome, home to the Yomiuri Giants as well as concerts and other big events, fans can purchase tickets for the “exciting seats” for a premium price.
These seats, in a single section devoid of netting, come complete with a provided helmet and glove. The Nippon Professional Baseball league has found a way to monetize adrenaline junkies.
Although we love a good video of a kid catching a foul ball, this plan sounds better.