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Fan struck by foul ball is in the hospital; Rays add netting to close gap

ST. PETERSBURG — The Tampa Bay Rays took action after a fan was struck by a foul ball at Friday's game by adding additional netting to cover a triangular gap in front of the seats near the Tropicana Field dugouts.

The injured fan, a 63-year-old woman, suffered facial fractures after being hit in the left eye. She was reported to be in stable condition Saturday at Bayfront Health St. Petersburg. Her identity has not been released.

"Our thoughts are with the injured fan and her family and we wish her a complete recovery," Rays vice president Rick Vaughn said in a statement. "Steps have been taken to ensure this unfortunate incident will not be repeated."

Rays outfielder Steven Souza Jr., who hit the foul ball that struck the woman, said the team has been in communication with her husband.

"He's been positive," Souza said. "Obviously he's very concerned for his wife but he's been very kind to us and very helpful. . . . As soon as it's possible (I will) go in and see how she's doing."

The Rays had expanded the netting this season as part of a Major League Baseball-wide recommendation to increase fan safety.

At the bottom of the seam where the new netting joined the old, triangular gaps were left to provide access to the camera wells. The gaps angled sideways from the field, and the width of the opening facing the field was no more than 6 inches, which made it seemingly unlikely for a ball to get through.

Souza said the odds of that happening and striking the woman, who was seated in the front row, were "astronomical," but that "having the hole covered will be a little peace of mind for the fans sitting there today."

"You don't want to see anybody get hit with a foul ball," Rays manager Kevin Cash said. "Everybody knows that was something freak that happened. But anywhere in this stadium, you are worried about people getting hit."

Marc Topkin can be reached at mtopkin@tampabay.com. Follow @TBTimes_Rays

Fan struck by foul ball is in the hospital; Rays add netting to close gap 04/16/16 [Last modified: Saturday, April 16, 2016 9:25pm]
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