Last year, I attended a minor league baseball game in Ohio. That night, I left the ballpark but did not return home for three days. And when I did go home, I was changed: I will never see out of my right eye again. Ever.

I have been advocating ever since for safer ballparks across the country — at the major league and the minor league levels. I have tried my hardest to warn people of the very real dangers that ballparks present. Most people know that balls are going to fly into the stands but most are unaware that they come at incredible speed, usually faster than 100 mph. They can inflict serious damage when they strike. Unfortunately, I have discovered along the way that I am not alone in my suffering. This happens frequently, and the injuries are just devastating. The worst part is MLB and MiLB know all of this and, until very recently, had chosen to do very little about it. Because this matter is so important to me and I have family in Maryland, I decided to see where their ballparks stand on netting.

All 30 MLB teams and many MiLB teams have netting that stretches to at the least the far ends of each dugout. The Orioles have extended netting that reaches past the dugouts, but they were among the last major league teams to announce this. I was shocked and horrified to learn not one of the minor league parks has extended netting to the far ends of the dugouts. I personally called each one of these parks and asked them why. Their reason? They don’t have to. They know fans are getting hurt, they know the numbers, and they choose to do nothing about it. The attitude they presented made me sick. If one person left any of these parks seriously injured, that should be enough of a reason right there. What are they waiting for?

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Minor league parks are even more dangerous than major league parks. Fans are much closer to the action. Minor league parks appeal to families because of the affordable tickets and kid-friendly promotions. Most partner with schools for reading programs in which the children have a chance to win a free ticket. I know the excitement this can build in a young child, this reading program was the reason I was at the game with my family. My children’s excitement about a night out at a baseball game turned to terror. They never want to go to another game.

Even if extending the netting is not a requirement, safety of fans should come first. Ballparks should stop expecting fans to protect themselves against something that is nearly impossible to get out of the way of. This is an issue of public safety, just as you have measures in place for fire safety and general safety around the park, you must also have measures in place to protect the fans.

The time has come for the MiLB organizations of Maryland to do the right thing and extend protective netting to at the very least the far ends of the dugouts, if not to the foul poles. Make the safety of the fans the No. 1 priority. Without fans, minor league baseball would be out of business.

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