In the debate over whether or not to extend protective netting, those who oppose any additional nets love to cite figures in an attempt to show that the likelihood of being injured by a foul ball or bat is statistically small in comparison to the number attending MLB and MiLB games every season. What is often lost in this argument is that real people are suffering real injuries, many of them life-altering. It’s easy to ignore a problem that has no face, that is depersonalized by citing a bunch of numbers. The bottom line is that no one should suffer an injury from a ball or bat, especially since the solution is so simple.
What follows is the story of one such tragedy. It is a tale I hear all too often. And it is one that never should have happened.
On August 6, 2016, my husband’s life changed forever…at a baseball game. An event we never imagined could happen and took an instant to transpire had a life-altering effect on his wellbeing.
We were in attendance at a much anticipated Braves vs. Cardinals game at Busch Stadium. The Braves/Cardinals series in St. Louis is an annual pilgrimage we make from Atlanta to watch the game with our friends- rival Cardinals fans. We were seated in section 144, row E at the far right side, the 3rd and 4th seats in. We were watching and paying close attention to the game when in the bottom of the 8th, Tommy Pham of the Cardinals hit a broken-bat foul ball into the stands in our section. I felt something fly by my face and lift my hair and immediately knew what had happened. My husband, Rick, was struck directly in his left eye by a foul ball traveling at great speed. He reacted immediately by placing both hands over his eye. Fans all around us began calling for help from the medics. A gentleman who introduced himself as a surgeon was at our side immediately to assess Rick’s condition. He urged my husband to remove his hands so he could see if there was any projectile imbedded in his eye. As soon as Rick pulled his hands away and I saw the injury, I knew the gravity of the situation. EMT’s responded within seconds it seems and as soon as they determined Rick had not lost consciousness and could walk out of the stadium, they quickly escorted us to a First Aid area located at section 147. There they applied a temporary bandage and got Rick and I to an ambulance immediately. We were taken to Barnes Jewish Hospital where the full extent of his injuries would be determined.
Between 9:00 p.m. on August 6th and 8:30 a.m. on August 7th, multiple examinations and a 4 ½ hour surgery took place. Suffice it to say that the outcome was less than favorable. Rick’s injuries included a ruptured globe, blow-out fracture of the orbital floor, broken zygomatic arch, broken temporal-mandibular joint, and lacerations. In layman’s terms, his eyeball was flattened, bones in the eye socket were fractured, his cheekbone and jaw were broken, and he had deep cuts. He would never see out of that eye again.
In the days following the injury, he has been seen by more doctors than we can remember, including surgeons and specialists, to determine if there was any chance of meaningful vision in the left eye or if it needs to be removed and replaced with a prosthetic eye. Based on the current state of the eye, very low likelihood of any meaningful sight, and the risks involved with surgery, it was decided that Rick will not undergo any further surgeries. He will remain sightless in the left eye.
He wears polycarbonate glasses now full time to protect his right eye. The left eye socket is sunken and the bony abnormalities are apparent now that all the swelling has gone down. He still has his eyeball and will keep it as long as it doesn’t shrink too much and as long as it doesn’t cause him pain. He isn’t in pain now, thank goodness. He has some discomfort and he wants to rub the eye constantly. The eye itself is pretty clouded over, but when he has his glasses on it isn’t very noticeable.
He functions well but there are things that are bothersome…large crowds where he can’t see people approaching from the left, hand-eye coordination for close up work. He is a tinkerer and is working on refinishing a boat and this is challenging.
You know before Rick’s accident I never gave this much thought. Now it’s so obvious. But this is the reason there is no fan outcry for more netting. The public doesn’t know about it. I think if more fans saw the faces of those injured or the actual injuries they might actually think twice about where they sit at the ball park.