Screaming foul balls, errant hockey pucks and Luis Salazar


We learn this morning that Luis Salazar seems to have avoided brain damage as a result of the wicked foul ball that tore into the dugout yesterday. He has multiple facial fractures, but he’s recovering in an Orlando hospital.

That incident reminded me that I wasn’t wrong to feel really vulnerable when I was at spring training games last week. Most of the time I was in the press box, but I’d spend at least part of every game down low along the lines, just beyond the screen so that I could get some good pictures. Whenever I had my face down to mess with my phone or my camera or to take a note or whatever, I had a strong compulsion to look up because I was painfully aware of how fast a ball could find its way to my head.

The incident also reminded me of Brittanie Cecil. She was the 13 year-old girl who was killed by an errant puck at a Columbus Blue Jackets game in 2002.  I certainly had her in my mind last night when, hours after the Salazar incident, my brother and I went to see the Jackets play the St. Louis Blues. As always, I noted the netting on each end of the ice that wasn’t a standard part of hockey arenas before Cecil’s death and realized that heavy, fast-moving projectiles and fans can be a dangerous combination.

I’m not alone in thinking about that. Indeed, it prompted a reader — Rob B. — to write in yesterday putting voice to what a lot of probably feel:

When I read the posts about Josh Beckett and the San Diego coach being hit last week, I could not help but think about Mike Coolbaugh.  I also thought about 4 year old Luke Holko, who was attending a Mahoning Valley Scrappers game in 2009, when he was hit in the head by a foul ball.  Additionally, I thought about Tyler Colvin who was impaled by a broken bat this past September and Denard Spann’s mother who was hit by his foul ball last March.

Last year, I read the book about Mike Coolbaugh, “Heart of the Game: Life, Death, and Mercy in Minor League America” by S.L. Price.  Of the many interesting items in that story, one that stood out was the idea that the players all seemed to be aware of the inherent dangers of being hit by a ball or bat.  From what I remember, there were many people interviewed who mentioned that they kept a watch out for family members at the ballpark and made sure that they kept themselves behing the protective netting.

Ever since I read that book, I have attempted to make sure that my family and I are seated in areas where our safety is increased.  With regards to the more affordable Minor League, we try to sit behind the netting.  When we go to the more expensive Major League Stadiums, we tend to sit in areas which place us farther from the action.

When we went to games at Durham, Brooklyn, and Frederick, all great stadiums where most of the fans are incredibly close to the action, we saw many balls hit hard into the stands and most of the attendees did not have gloves to attempt to protect themselves.  We also saw a number of broken and intact bats fly into the stands.

When we went to the Futures At Fenway games last summer, we were seated close to the field, but not behing the screen.  Luckily, I brought my glove with me, since I had to catch a line drive foul that was heading for my younger son.

It is shocking to me that Major and Minor League Baseball have not put more safety features in place to protect the players and the fans.  I understand that it may take away from some esthetic part of the game, but the alternative is incredibly costly.  I just hope that MLB and MiLB do something, quickly, before there is another Mike Coolbaugh or another Luis Salazar.

You can’t make anything 100% safe. Accidents and incidents happen. There is no such thing as total protection, and I don’t think that should be the overriding goal of those who operate ballparks and arenas.

But nor should anyone dismiss the idea of added safety, and perhaps the Salazar incident should prompt us to think about what, if anything, can be done that can provide a reasonable measure of protection to those so close to the action.

In the meantime, if you find yourself low and close at the ballpark, for God’s sake, pay attention.

Major League Baseball finds insufficient evidence to discipline Miguel Sano for sexual assualt

Getty Images
1 Comment

In late December Betsy Bissen, a photographer for the Minnesota Twins website, Twins Daily, alleged that Miguel Sano assaulted her a few years ago. Bissen offered a detailed account of the incident.

In the account she said that in 2015 Sano was at an autograph signing at a store at which she volunteered. After the signing, she alleged that Sano grabbed her wrist and forced her to accompany him to a nearby store, attempted to force her through a doorway near the restrooms, tried to kiss her multiple times and continued to hold her, forcibly and painfully, by her wrist, in an effort to get her into the bathroom with him. She said the struggle lasted for 10 minutes, and her screams for help went unanswered.

Major League Baseball announced that it was investigating the matter. A few moments ago, it announced its findings and that it was declining to discipline Sano:

The Office of the Commissioner of Baseball has completed its investigation into an assault allegation made against Minnesota Twins third baseman Miguel Sano. The comprehensive investigation included interviews of more than 20 individuals, including Sano and the complainant, as well as a review of available documents, including communication records.

At the conclusion of the investigation, the Office of the Commissioner found that there was insufficient evidence to support a disciplinary determination against Sano, due to conflicting and inconsistent witness accounts and the absence of contemporaneous substantiation. Barring the receipt of any new information or evidence, the Office of the Commissioner will not impose discipline on Sano in connection with the alleged incident.

Based on the text of the statement, one may conclude that the league did not find Bissen’s claims to be credible.

This is first investigation of this type, or pursuant to its domestic violence policy under the umbrella of which this investigation presumably falls, which has not resulted in discipline of some kind. At least investigations of which the public was aware.