The young girl struck in the face by a foul ball at Wednesday’s Yankees game remained hospitalized one day later at NewYork-Presbyterian Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital in Manhattan.
Local politicians vowed to ramp up the heat Thursday to pressure the Yankees to join the Mets in installing protective netting to better protect spectators.
“This is a terrible tragedy, we’re going to take a hard look at whether teams should extend this netting further to protect fans,” said Mayor de Blasio’s spokesman Seth Stein.
New York City Councilman Rafael Espinal Jr. of the 37th district, who has been a harsh critic of the Yankees in the past year for not taking action with the protective netting issue, told The Daily News that the girl’s injury Wednesday was “very sad and disheartening.”
Espinal had introduced a bill in May that would require stadiums of 5,000 or more seats to have protective netting from home plate to the foul pole on either side of the outfield.
“I would never have wanted to see something like what happened yesterday ever happen. I think it could have been avoidable, if only netting had been put in place before yesterday’s game. But this is the reality and I hope this is a moment where the Yankees do some reflecting and finally move forward with putting it in to protect their fans,” said Espinal. “Coincidentally I decided a few days ago to move forward with holding a hearing on my bill. We scheduled it for Oct. 25 (at City Hall).
“My hope was that the teams would take this issue upon themselves without needing any legislative action. But it’s becoming more obvious that we need to move forward and the government has to step in and be expedient on this issue.”
So what will it take for all 30 MLB clubs to finally have those safety features installed or updated to further protect fans?
“The events at (Wednesday’s) game involving a young girl were extremely upsetting for everyone in our game,” baseball commissioner Rob Manfred said. “Over the past few seasons MLB has worked with our clubs to expand the amount of netting in our ballparks. In light of yesterday’s event, we will redouble our efforts on this important issue.”
In December of 2015, Manfred made recommendations to all 30 clubs to expand protective netting at stadiums, but as of September, 2017, only 10 clubs have implemented those measures, including the Mets at their home stadium, Citi Field.
But the Daily News has learned that Wednesday’s incident at the Stadium has expedited movement among several teams to expand protective netting at their stadiums this off-season. The Cincinnati Reds announced Thursday that they would be “extending new netting to the end of each dugout and replacing the existing netting behind home plate” at Great American Ball Park “for the 2018 season.”
The Seattle Mariners are also taking the step to protect fans better and extending protective netting at Safeco Field.
“This is an issue that we’ve been concerned about for some time,” Mariners president Kevin Mather said. “We still have some details to work out, but the bottom line is expanded netting at Safeco Field is going to happen.”
Late Thursday, the Padres announced that “following several months of planning” Petco Park would be getting protective netting installed prior to next opening day.
The Mets already had installed protective netting behind home plate and down both sidelines after the All-Star break this year, but Yankee Stadium still has not installed such safety features, despite two high-profile episodes already this season: in addition to the girl struck Wednesday, a man was hit in the head at the Stadium in July by a foul ball off the bat of rookie slugger Aaron Judge.
“Our thoughts and prayers continue to be centered around our young fan and her family. We remain in direct contact with her family and the hospital, and we will provide any and all assistance that may be necessary,” the Yankees said in a statement Thursday. Team president Randy Levine and GM Brian Cashman could not be reached.
“I think at this point with what happened (Wednesday), it’s pretty much a no-brainer,” Espinal said. “We have to move forward and do more to protect the fans.”