When I Found Out My Life-Changing Injury Could Have Been Prevented
Two years ago, I sustained a devastating injury at a ballpark. A line drive came at me traveling at great speed and struck me in the head. This injury left me permanently blind in one eye. Along with the blindness came nerve damage to my face and teeth, multiple broken facial bones, reconstructive surgery and many, many months of eye doctor appointments. I suffered through crushing anxiety, struggling daily to accept what had happened and my new reality. One might think this was the hardest part of the situation I found myself in, but it wasn’t.
Along with the physical devastation came emotional trauma I could barely deal with at times. The only thing that kept me going every day was my children. The youngest was 4 at the time my injury occurred, and he was right next to me when the ball came at us like a rocket. Every single day I am grateful that ball hit me and not him. The doctors said the trauma I sustained was so severe, it would likely have killed a child. You might be thinking this was the hardest part of the situation I found myself in, but it wasn’t.
Months passed and my children began to heal from what they had witnessed. I began the long, slow road of healing physically and emotionally. I needed to accept my blindness; I needed to find a way to move on. I honestly thought I was the only person in the world to leave a ballpark with a severe injury caused by a line drive. This is where the hardest part of my situation begins.
I quickly learned I was not the only person to leave a ballpark with a devastating and life-changing injury. I found it was quite common; it had been happening for years and many injured fans were worse off than me.
I was sick to my stomach. These are totally preventable injuries. I quickly decided I wanted to advocate for changes at ballparks to make them safer. I began my mission to raise awareness of what happened to me and to warn people it was imperative they sit behind the protective netting, especially if children were present. I pleaded with the city that owned the ballpark where I was injured to extend the netting to the foul poles. In the end, the mayor agreed to only go to the far ends of the dugouts, which to me was upsetting as I was seated two sections past this point.
For these past two years I have watched men, women and unfortunately children continue to get drilled by line drives. The injuries keep piling up, one after another. I know what these families will suffer through — the physical pain, the trauma, the fear of not knowing how they are going to pay these astronomical medical bills, the hope of holding MLB or MiLB accountable, the disappointment when they realize they are on their own and they will be completely unsupported on this journey.
I cannot understand how it is humanly possible for MLB and MiLB to not do the right thing. It is so simple. Extend the protective netting to the foul poles; make it adequate in length and in height.
This past August, Linda Goldbloom was struck at Dodger Stadium and died as a direct result of her injury. She was seated in the upper deck behind home plate; the protective netting was not high enough to cover the fans in that area. And last week, the country witnessed a little girl struck in an instant on live television. She was seated just feet from where the netting ended. Three days later, two more children suffered the same fate, each of them at different ballparks, all of them severely injured. During an interview yesterday, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred stated that there are no plans to further extend the protective netting during this season, but they will continue talks in the off season. If these latest injuries are not enough for MLB to immediately mandate netting to the foul poles, I don’t know what is.
I have worked tirelessly to try to get MLB to listen to injured fans and make their ballparks safe for all. Each and every injury that occurs breaks my heart, and it is so frustrating that there is nothing I can do to stop them from happening. I truly do not want anybody else to suffer the way I have. This is the hardest part about my situation.
Please, when you are at a ballpark, major or minor league, sit behind the netting. These ball clubs do not tell you on the signs posted around the park that you will not be able to fend off a line drive. It will hit you in less than a second; there is no reaction time. If your seats are not behind netting, ask to be moved — they must oblige. Never assume that because there is no netting down the lines that these are safe areas. They are not. If you are so inclined, I encourage you to reach out to your local government officials and demand these ballparks update their protective netting to reach to the foul poles before one more person is terribly injured, or worse.
Getty image by Artur Didyk.