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Another child injured by foul ball

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It seems like this happens every week: a young child was struck and injured by a line drive foul ball in yesterday’s game between the Royals and Indians at Progressive Field in Cleveland.

The child, who is three-years-old, was struck by a hard foul ball off the bat of Indians shortstop Francisco Lindor. The child was transported to a local hospital. The Indians are not authorized to release any information about the child, but Lindor said after the game he was told that the child was in stable condition.

The protective netting at Progressive Field runs to the end of each dugout. Lindor’s line drive landed several sections beyond the netting and was about 12 to 15 rows into the stands. Lindor said after the game that he thinks that all teams should extend protective netting from foul pole to foul pole:

“I encourage every MLB team to put the nets all the way down. I know it’s all about the fans’ experience of interacting with players and I completely get that. You want to have that interaction with the fans, getting autographs and stuff, but at the end of the day, we want to make sure everybody comes out of this game healthy, and we got to do something about it. Everybody feels bad. And if we can put the nets a little bit further down, I think it would be a lot better.”

The Chicago White Sox, Washington Nationals and Kansas City Royals have either extended protective netting or recently announced plans to do so. In both Chicago and Kansas City this was done in direct response to a child getting injured. This reactive, rather than proactive, response is similar to all 30 teams extending netting to the end of dugouts only after a child was seriously injured at a Yankees game at the end of the 2017 season. This despite the fact that Major League Baseball recommended, but did not mandate, extended netting nearly two years earlier, in December 2015.

Why teams have consistently refused to extend netting unless or until children get injured is an interesting question. It’s one that, if I was an attorney for the family of an injured child, I’d be asking team and league officials — officials who have spent the past several years using ever-increasing exit velocities of balls off bats as a marketing tool and who have acknowledged that the ball has experienced changes recently which has caused it to fly farther, faster — in a formal setting.

Young Blue Jays say they aren’t intimidated by top seed Rays

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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) When the Tampa Bay Rays and Toronto Blue Jays opened the pandemic-delayed season a little over two months ago, there was little to indicate the AL East rivals might meet again to begin the playoffs.

While the Rays launched the truncated 60-game schedule with expectations of making a strong bid for their first division title in a decade, the Blue Jays generally were viewed as an immensely talented young team still years away from postseason contention.

Tampa Bay didn’t disappoint, shrugging off a slow start to go a league-best 40-20 and claim the No. 1 seed in the AL playoffs that begin Tuesday.

Lefty Blake Snell, who’ll start Game 1 of the best-of-three wild-card series against Toronto at Tropicana Field, also isn’t surprised that the eighth-seeded Blue Jays earned a spot, too.

The Rays won six of 10 games between the teams during the regular season, but were outscored 48-44 and outhomered 17-11.

And while Toronto (32-28) lacks the playoff experience Tampa Bay gained last season when the Rays beat Oakland in the AL wild-card game before falling to Houston in the divisional round, the Blue Jays are building with exciting young players such as Cavan Biggio, Bo Bichette and Vladimir Guerrero Jr.

“They’ve got a lot of young guys who can ball over there,” Snell said. “It’s going to be fun to compete and see how we do.”

Rays defensive whiz Kevin Kiermaier said Tampa Bay, in the playoffs in consecutive seasons for the second time franchise history, will not take the Blue Jays lightly.

“We know we’re playing a real good team,” Kiermaier said. “It’s not going to be easy, regardless of what a team is seeded.”

The Blue Jays, who’ll start right-hander Matt Shoemaker, aren’t conceding anything.

Bichette said he and his teammates respect how good Tampa Bay is, but are not intimidated by facing the No. 1 seed.

“I would say that we didn’t care who we played. I would say that we didn’t mind playing Tampa, that’s for sure. We’re familiar with them. We’ve played them well,” Bichette said.

“I think we’re confident in our ability against them. Our talent matches up well,” Bichette added. “We think if we play well we’ve got a good chance.”

NO FANS

The stands at Tropicana Field will be empty, leaving players to wonder what the atmosphere will be like for the playoffs.

Tampa Bay routinely rank at or near the bottom of the majors in attendance, but usually pack the stands in the domed stadium during the postseason.

“It will be different,” Bichette said. “Normally when you think of your first postseason you think 40,000, you think about not being able to think it’s so loud, stuff like that.”

The Blue Jays open the playoffs near where they hold spring training in Dunedin, Florida. It’s been a winding road for Toronto, which played its home games in Buffalo, New York, at the site of its Triple-A affiliate after the Canadian government barred the Blue Jays from hosting games at their own stadium because of coronavirus concerns.

CONFIDENT RAYS

Tampa Bay’s five-game loss to Houston in last year’s divisional round was a source of motivation during the regular season.

“It definitely lit a fire under everybody. It really showed us we belong. … We gave them a tough series,” second baseman Brandon Lowe said.

“We won the wild-card game. We belong in the postseason. I think that did a lot for us to understand that we should be in the postseason and we can go a lot farther. We know what to expect this time around. I think everyone in our clubhouse expects to be playing until the end of October,” he said.

CLOSE FRIENDS

Tampa Bay manager Kevin Cash has the Rays in the playoffs for the second time. His close friend and former Rays third base and bench coach Charlie Montoyo is in his second year as manager of the Blue Jays, who last made the playoffs in 2016.

“Pretty special,” Cash said of his relationship with Montoyo.

“I really learned a lot from him being around him. The way he carried himself. His hand print is throughout this organization,” Cash added. “A pretty big impact and a positive one. … When they clinched I talked to him, we face-timed at 1:30 in the morning. I’m so happy for him.”