Posted by: Bob Gorman | August 14, 2013

Fatalities Update, 2015-present



Zacharie Schaubhut, 15, was pitching during a game in Bemidji, MN, on May 24, 2015, when he was struck by a batted ball.  The youngster was taken to a local hospital before being airlifted to a hospital in Fargo, ND.  He passed away later that same day.

Ten-year-old Lane Rodgers was one among a group of youngsters playing in a 76-team baseball tournament in Tupelo, MS, on June 13, 2015, when heavy storms struck the area.  As he and others ran for the safety of a nearby concession stand, a large limb fell and struck him on the back of his head just as he was passing under a tree.  One of the parents who was a physician administered CPR until paramedics arrived and took the child to an area hospital where he was pronounced dead on arrival.

Kaiser Carlile, 9, bat boy for the Liberal (KS) Bee Jays, an amateur team playing in the National Baseball Congress World Series in Wichita, KS, was struck on the head by a bat swung in practice during a game on August 1, 2015.  Although the child was wearing a batting helmet, the blow resulted in his death the following day.

Sixty-year-old Gregory Murrey tumbled from the upper deck at Turner Field during the seventh inning of an Atlanta Braves game against the New York Yankees on August 29, 2015.  Murray, who fell some 40 feet into the seating area behind home plate, was administered CPR before he was rushed to an area hospital, where he was pronounced dead shortly after arrival.


  1. Thanks for doing this project. I’m not sure whether it gives practicable information or not though…as a mother of a baseball-obsessed 8 year old, I am terrified by all the anecdotes about fatalities and injuries. Considering how many kids play, the risk seems tiny, and yet if it were your child….
    I bought a chest protector for my son after today’s news about a boy in AZ who died of a chest injury, but shortly after I read that they are basically useless. Softer baseballs have been suggested, but I doubt much study has been done on that. If a regular ball thrown as slowly as 40 MPH can be fatal, would a softer ball be protection? I mean, it’s not like you can play with a Nerf ball. I guess it would be interesting and instructive to know how many kids die of chest injuries outside of baseball, for comparison.

    • Annie,

      First, let me say up front that I am not a physician. What knowledge I have about the issue of baseball safety has come from the readings I have done in my historical research on baseball-related fatalities. Therefore, my opinions are those of an informed layperson, not a medical expert.

      There are a number of recent studies on the issue of safety baseballs and chest protectors and the prevention or decrease in incidents of commotio cordis. A 2001 study of safety baseballs published in the May 2002 issue of the journal Pediatrics (“Reduced Risk of Sudden Death from Chest Wall Blows (Commotio Cordis) with Safety Baseballs,” Mark S. Link, et al, pp. 873-877) concluded that “safety baseballs reduced (but did not abolish) the risk of sudden cardiac death. More universal use of these safety baseballs may decrease the risk of sudden death on the playing field for young athletes.” (This study, I might add, was based on an animal model using young pigs, not a human one.)

      Similarly, a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association concerning safety baseballs and faceguards (“Evaluation of Safety Baseballs and Faceguards for Prevention of Injuries in Youth Baseball,” Stephen W. Marshall, et. al, February 5, 2003, pp. 568-574) concluded that “Reduced-impact balls and faceguards were associated with a reduced risk of injury in youth baseball. These findings support increased usage of these items; however, it should be noted that the absolute incidence of injury in youth baseball is low and that these equipment items do not prevent all injuries.”

      The news on chest protectors has been much less encouraging. A study on commercially-available chest protectors reported in The American Journal of Cardiology (Joseph J. Doerer, et. al, March 15, 2007, pp. 857-859) concluded “that almost 40% of commotio cordis deaths in young competitive athletes occurred in the presence of chest barriers raises the critical consideration of whether chest protectors that effectively abolish the risk for commotio cordis can be manufactured. Improvements in the design and composition of chest protectors are necessary to enhance the safety of the athletic field for our youth.”

      Finally, commotio cordis fatalities are not just a baseball problem. Other sports, including football, hockey, and lacrosse, have had their share of commotio cordis deaths as well. And while it is an event that happens mainly to children under 18, my research has uncovered a number of adult fatalities from blows to the heart.

  2. Dear Bob
    Thank you for this interesting research.
    I live in Norwood South Australia and at our local suburban Norwood Oval (used for Australian Rules Football – lately called Coopers Stadium !) Baseball is currently being played during the summer months. On two sides of the small Oval houses abut the Oval (Beulah Road & Osmond Terrace); on the third side a pavement and laneway (Woods Street) separate the Oval from a full row of heritage housing; on the fourth side is a Memoroial Garden and the main roadway, the Norwood Parade.

    This venue has no banking stands as we have sen in USA,only two Victorian / Edwardian styled stands for spectators. We receive wayward balls from the Oval on Osmond Terrace, Woods Street and in the Memorial Gardens & Parade. This is a densely populated area and we are very concerned about the number of wayward balls reaching us. We feel certain it is a matter of time before an unsuspecting pedestrian or homeowner is injured. While collecting signatures requesting Baseball be played in an appropriate Stadium, a ball landed 12 inches from my foot and with such force I realised that had it hit my head I would not be here.
    Please could you help me with the following questions ?
    1.What are the normal precautions taken by Baseball Stadiums to ensure the safety of people inside the Stadium ?
    2.Are their any regulations re-construction of a Baseball stadium that are required to limit wayward balls into the surrounding houses?
    3.Are Stadium generally located near densely populated areas ?
    4.What is the height of the surrounding walls / stands please in Baseball Stadiums?

    We were promised that no balls would go over the Sir Edwin Smith Stand because a) wooden bats would be used and b) it was impossible with the reconfigured hitting point. Yet balls sailed over the stand out onto the Parade and Memorial Gardens. Also, that Woods Street would receive no balls, but the balls now land in front gardens rather than back gardens.
    Our homes and cars are being damaged already but we are fearful of more serious injury not only outside the Oval but also in the unnetted Oval stands.
    Can you advise ?
    Can you supply any information or refer us to information sources please ?
    kindest regards

    • Dear Maggie,
      After looking at a few pictures and a Youtube video of your stadium that are posted on the Internet, I can certainly understand the problem you are having. With what short fencing there is around the playing field, there’s really nothing to stop the flight of the ball. Is there even a tall backstop behind home plate? It didn’t look like it. It appeared that most of the fans are sitting close to the field with only short fences in front of them. If that is correct, you must have a substantial amount of fan injuries every season.
      It also looked like some of the houses I saw in the background are quite close to the playing area, with only rather short walls/fences to stop any hard-hit balls. Balls must strike these houses or land in yards all the time.
      Concerning conditions in the U.S., there are a large number of minor and major league stadiums that are located in densely populated urban areas. Most of the major league parks are behemoths, so large that it is impossible to hit a ball out of them. However, there are two older major league stadiums – Fenway Park in Boston and Wrigley Field in Chicago – which are smaller. They both have housing and businesses surrounding them. In both parks, homerun balls regularly leave the stadium. That is especially true of Wrigley Field.
      At Fenway, the left field wall is just 310 feet from home plate. One thing they did, though, is build a large wall (the Green Monster) that does help keep some balls in the stadium. But some hard-hit balls do sail over the wall and land in the street outside the park. At Wrigley, balls leaving the stadium are so common that fans will stand in the street during a game to try and get those that land there.
      It is somewhat different with our minor league parks. All are considerably smaller than the major league ones and most do not have seating surrounding the outfield walls, which would add depth to the stadium. As a result, it is much easier for a ball to be hit out of a minor league stadium.
      While our major and minor league parks do have outfield walls or fences, there is no requirement as to how tall they have to be. But if you look at photos of our stadiums, you’ll see that some outfield walls/fences are quite high indeed. They are often built tall to prevent “cheap” homeruns. These barriers also stop most balls from leaving the playing field.
      While some have expressed concern about the danger of balls that do leave the stadium, most seem to accept the fact that balls will sometimes land in the streets or strike a building or car. As far as I know, there is no move afoot to do anything about it.
      Stadiums in the U.S. are required to provide only minimal protection for fans. All have high screens behind home plate that usually run down the first and third base lines to the beginning of the dugouts. While some minor league stadiums do have protective screening all the way down the lines to first and third base, there is no requirement that they do so. Consequently, we suffer many serious injuries every year from foul balls and bats entering the seating area. Baseball here has long been protected from liability by a legal doctrine known as “assumption of risk” (sometimes referred to as “the baseball rule”). Assumption of risk is based on the belief that everyone knows that balls and bats frequently fly into the stands and that they can cause serious injury, so if one chooses to sit in an unprotected area, he/she has assumed the risk involved in sitting there.
      I hope this information is of use to you.
      Bob Gorman

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