Small group of protesters take credit for Fenway banner

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As we wrote last night, during the fourth inning of Wednesday night’s game between the Athletics and Red Sox, some people sitting behind the Green Monster at Fenway Park unfurled a black banner with white text that read, “Racism is as American as Baseball.” The banner was confiscated and the fans were kicked out of the park.

As we said, we suspected it was an anti-racism banner, even if it was a rather ham-fisted sentiment. That was confirmed by Evan Drellich of CSNNE.com last night, who spoke to one of the members of the group of five who were involved in the unfurling of the banner:

“There were originally about eight people involved who had this idea, and those eight people come from various organizing groups in the Boston area,” the group member said by phone. “Mostly groups that affiliate with racial justice causes. And the banner came in response to the racist comments at the beginning of the season at Fenway [that Adam Jones spoke of].

“But overall, we saw, we see Boston continually priding itself as a kind of liberal, not racist city, and are reminded also constantly that it’s actually an extremely segregated city. It has been for a long time, and that no white people can avoid the history of racism, essentially. So we did this banner as a gesture towards that, to have a conversation about that.”

Last night on Twitter, an account called “Boston Antifa” — which claims to be part of the larger Antifa movementattempted to take responsibility for the banner, saying that Major League Baseball is a racist organization and demanding that MLB “be dissolved.” The person Drellich spoke to however said that was “ridiculous,” adding, “The five of us are in no way associated with Antifa nor did Antifa Boston have anything to do with the action.” Drellich notes that, as proof, they provided an image of the banner when it was being unfurled ahead of the demonstration, as a test. UPDATE: At least one website is claiming that “Boston Antifa” is a group of right wing trolls, trying to make the Antifa movement look bad. Who knows? All we know is that they didn’t do the banner. God, 2017 is exhausting.

Good thing it wasn’t really them, as Rob Manfred would have had no choice but to dissolve MLB under their immense and persuasive pressure and then all of us would be in a bad spot.

In any event. the entire episode appeared to have played out pretty uneventfully. The guys unfurled their banner and, as they expected to be, were kicked out of the park. Drellich reports that the ejection was orderly and polite on all sides. Major League Baseball has not been dissolved. I guess we’re all good here.

Aaron Judge ties the rookie home run record with his 49th blast

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Monday afternoon baseball that isn’t either (a) part of a doubleheader; or (b) on a holiday is always a bit unsettling, but today’s rare Monday tilt gave us a gift in the form of history: Aaron Judge hit his 49th home run, tying the rookie record.

The dinger came in the third inning of this afternoon’s Royals-Yankees tilt. It was the sixth pitch from Jake Junis and left via right field. Mark McGwire also hit 49 with the Athletics in 1987. Judge has the rest of today’s game and five more games after it to hit number 50 and claim the record for himself.

Watch:

Major League Baseball wants you to look at a screen while you’re at the ballpark

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During the debate last week involving expanded netting at major league ballparks, the familiar refrain from the anti-netting crowd rung out: “hey, netting wouldn’t be necessary if you simply paid attention!” These folks get particularly upset at the idea of people looking at their phones or other electronic devices during the game, implying — or sometimes explicitly stating — that if you do that you almost deserve to be hit with a 100 mph foul ball.

The problem with that, though, is that Major League Baseball increasingly encourages fans to use their phones during games. You can order your concessions through them now. Fans are encouraged to use the MLB.com Ballpark app for an increasing number of in-game features. And, of course, the video boards — always in the opposite direction of the hitter — are getting larger and larger and contain more and more information that the clubs and the league want you to see.

But it goes farther than that. Or at least it will soon. As this article from TechCrunch makes clear, in the future, Major League Baseball wants you actually watching the game action through your phone or your iPad. It’s an augmented reality feature in which you hold up your tablet and . . .

In essence, it’s a bit like watching TV broadcast in person, with information overlaid on the action as it happens in real-time. The data is gathered from Statcast, MLB’s in-house analytics tool . . . Players on the field, meanwhile, get small, square popups featuring their faces that can be tapped open to offer up personalized player information

Which is kind of cool, actually. Personally I am fascinated with the possibilities of augmented reality. For me it usually comes to mind when I’m out hiking and I want to know what a certain kind of tree is or something (my natural education was sorely lacking as a child), but there are tons of other applications. Even though I probably know more about the players and what’s going on on the field than your average American, I’d still probably use such a product, at least a little bit at a game.

But, of course, there is that safety tradeoff. How can Major League Baseball continue to be hands-off about a netting policy and maintain that fans assume the risk of foul ball injuries while simultaneously encouraging the use of electronic devices that will, necessarily, distract them from directly observing on-field action? Indeed, if they do continue to maintain that paradoxical approach, I’d expect this quote from the article to be used at a trial of an injured fan suing for damages:

“People are already using their phones, and we don’t think this is all that different,” MLB Product VP Chad Evans told us at the event. Of course, in a sport where small spherical objects are regularly projected into the stands at high speeds, it’s a good idea to keep your eye on the field. Perhaps popping up an alert on screen when a ball approaches would be a good start.

That last bit — not the quote, but the article’s suggestion of a warning — is comical given how quickly a ball can make it into the stands. Even fans paying rapt attention can get hurt by fast foul balls. Expecting them to process a warning and then act based on it when instinct often isn’t fast enough is ridiculous.

Cool product, for sure. Like I said, I’d probably even use it on occasion. But the more technology and the more distractions Major League Baseball pours into the game, the more responsibility it will have when those distractions contribute to fan injuries. In light of that, they simply cannot continue to be hands-off with respect to the matter.