Most sports fans have heard of the death of a baseball fan at a Texas Rangers game last week. Shannon Stone fell to his death trying to catch a ball tossed to him by Rangers All-Star Josh Hamilton. It was a horrible event on both ends; a child left fatherless and a wife left widowed and then Hamilton and the Rangers club feeling awful about what happened. However it was not the first time a baseball fan put his life on the line for a game ball. As a matter of fact, a fan almost fell during last night’s All-Star Game Home Run Derby.
In light of the fact that the MLB can’t just blow this issue off, I have to ask myself how the league should react to this kind of fan behavior. After all, an attorney will likely work with the Stone family to sue the Rangers organization over the death of Shannon Stone arguing that Hamilton was responsible because he tossed the ball into the stands.
A quick fix would be putting nets up around stadium walls to catch anyone who might fall. It would certainly prevent deaths due to falling, but there are drawbacks for the overall quality of the game. Nets around the walls that separate the stands from the field could prevent players from catching balls and getting outs.
Another option is to add tall glass or fishnet barriers to the walls with tall drops to prevent fans reaching out at all. The problem with this is that fans will still find a way to climb them and that glass breaks and nets rip. It might, however, be the most effective solution.
The MLB can also ban players from tossing balls up into the stands. This incident would not have happened if Hamilton had not tossed the ball up. That’s not to say that it’s his fault because it’s not. Players do this type of thing all the time. It’s a part of the baseball experience. If you take it away, you dilute the experience for the fans.
Honestly, I don’t know that there is an adequate solution for protecting fans from reaching over to catch balls. Ultimately they are responsible for their own lives, but I’m interested to hear your opinion. What do you think the MLB should do about fans reaching over to catch baseballs?