Advertisement
  1. Sports
  2. /
  3. Rays

Fans react after foul ball hits woman at Tropicana Field

A foul ball off the bat of the Rays’ Joey Wendle strikes a fan in the head, sparking a debate about extended protective netting.
The Rays' Joey Wendle (18) hits a foul ball at the bottom of the second inning against Texas Rangers on Friday, June 28, 2019 at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg. (ALLIE GOULDING | Times)
Published Jul. 20

ST. PETERSBURG — Joey Wendle lined a 3-1 fastball into the leftfield seats in the fourth inning on Friday night. The foul ball soared around the protective netting and curved into the barrier separating Section 129 from the the walkways that surround the lower bowl of seating at Tropicana Field.

It deflected off the navy blue barrier, just above a Rays logo, and struck a woman on the right side of her forehead.

Larry Broga, a fan host lead at Tropicana Field, positioned himself between Sections 127 and 129 on Friday night. He watched as the foul ball flew in front of him and landed to his left.

After the foul ball struck the spectator, his team called their command center, which alerted fire rescue and the medical team to respond to the scene.

MORE RAYS: The good news is the Rays only lost one game on Friday. That’s an improvement.

The fan held an ice pack to her forehead as the medical team led her from the stands, Seat 9 in Row JJ of Section 129, to a wheelchair in the walkway. The medical team wheeled her down the aisle between Sections 129 and 131 to exit the stadium and receive further treatment.

The woman was not identified.

The ball flew outside the current protective netting at Tropicana Field, netting that extends to the end of each dugout. Broga said that it would have flown over the netting even if extended farther out.

“A net would not have helped,” Broga said.

Brogan believes the ball would have flown over extended netting and that usually someone would have been able to react quickly enough to avoid injury.

Nearby fans disagreed, saying that the ball came into the stands too quickly.

Jim Wallis, of St. Petersburg, said he would not have been able to respond in time to block the ball if it came his way. The ball sliced toward his seat, a chair behind the barrier and ricocheted off the barrier to strike the spectator in front of him.

RELATED: Another foul ball incident sparks talk about increased safety netting at MLB ballparks

“If you sit up here you know you’re taking a risk,” Wallis said. “I come to four or five games every year and never had a problem like that.”

The Chicago White Sox, the Rays’ opponent on Friday night, extended their protective netting to the foul poles at Guaranteed Rate Field over the All-Star break, making them the first major league team to do so. The protective measure comes after a string of similar incidents at ballparks across the country.

In May, a 2-year-old girl was struck in the head by a foul ball at a game between the Cubs and Astros in Houston. That incident resulted in a skull fracture and bleeding. Last August, Linda Goldbloom died after being struck by a foul ball at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles. She was 79.

Wallis said that protective netting would have stopped the foul ball from hitting his neighboring fan on Friday night, but he does not want to see that netting extended at Tropicana Field. Broga is indifferent to extended netting.

“I think they have to do whatever MLB says they have to do,” Broga said.

The Tropicana Field employee noted that he sees incidents like this about half a dozen times every year.

Other fans in Section 129 said protective netting is necessary.

William Shepherd, of St. Petersburg, came to the game with his family. The ball narrowly missed their seats, instead striking the woman behind them. Shepherd said that protective netting is already in use behind home plate, so extended netting may not hinder the fan experience.

“Look behind the plate,” Shepherd said. “That’s a net right there. If they do put a net up, just make sure you can see through it.”

Steve and Rosemarie Middents, a married couple from Seminole, are pro netting.

“There are kids that have been hurt,” Steve Middents said. “I think it needs to be done."

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. Pat Williams, co-founder of the NBA Orlando Magic basketball team, kisses a baseball at a news conference to announce a campaign to bring a Major League Baseball team to Orlando, Wednesday, Nov. 20, 2019 in Orlando, Fla. Williams brought good luck to the Orlando Magic by kissing ping pong balls before the NBA draft two years in a row bringing the number one picks twice. (AP Photo/John Raoux) JOHN RAOUX  |  AP
    John Romano | While communities across North America are gearing up for MLB expansion or relocation, Tampa Bay seems to be reacting with indifference to Rays attendance and stadium concerns.
  2. Tampa Bay Rays third baseman Matt Duffy (5) singles in the fourth inning against the Houston Astros in Game 3 of the American League Division Series Monday, Oct. 7, 2019 in St. Petersburg. DIRK SHADD  |  Times
    Jose De Leon is traded; Vidal Brujan, Jake Cronenworth, Lucius Fox, Ronaldo Hernandez, Kevin Padlo are added to roster.
  3. The home page for the website orlandodreamers.com, launched this week after an announced effort to try to attract a Major League Baseball team to Orlando. orlandodreamers.com
    Longtime sports executive Pat Williams’ pitch to get an MLB team starts with fans showing interest. Stadium, owners ‘"not pertinent right now."
  4. Catcher Ronaldo Hernandez, shown at the 2019 All-Star Futures Game, is one of the Rays top prospects. MARC TOPKIN  |  Tampa Bay Times
    Teams have until 8 p.m. Wednesday to decide which prospects are added to 40-man roster and protected from Rule 5 draft.
  5. Pat Williams is the former GM of the Orlando Magic basketball team and was involved in unsuccessful efforts to lure an expansion team in the 1990s. JASON DECROW  |  AP
    Longtime sports exec Pat Williams is holding a news conference Wednesday to talk about getting a team.
  6. Tampa Bay Rays' Carlos Pena hits a sixth-inning solo home run off New York Yankees pitcher Sidney Ponson in their baseball game at Yankee Stadium on July 9, 2008. KATHY WILLENS  |  AP
    Just the other day, Pena’s son asked him about being considered for the Hall.
  7. FILE - In this Sept. 20, 2019, file photo, Miami Marlins CEO Derek Jeter smiles as he speaks during a news conference in Miami. Derek Jeter is among 18 newcomers on the 2020 Hall of Fame ballot, announced Monday, Nov. 18, 2019, and is likely to be an overwhelming choice to join former New York Yankees teammate Mariano Rivera in Cooperstown after the reliever last year became the first unanimous pick by the Baseball Writers' Association of America. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee, File) WILFREDO LEE  |  AP
    Former Rays Carlos Pena and Heath Bell are also among the 18 up for election for the first time.
  8. Long faces dominate some of the remaining Tampa Bay Buccaneers fans during the fourth quarter of the game between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the New Orleans Saints at Raymond James Stadium on Sunday, November 17, 2019, in Tampa. DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD  |  Tampa Bay Times
    Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast: What remaining game will Tampa Bay be favored to win?
  9. The cover of the book Grassroots Baseball: Where Legends Begin Courtesy Jean Fruth
    The 224-page book features a chapter on Tampa, and an essay by Hall of Famer Wade Boggs.
  10. Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Blake Snell (4) delivers a pitch in the fourth inning against the Houston Astros in Game 5 of the American League Division Series on Oct. 10 in Houston. DIRK SHADD  |  Times
    Rays Tales: Team execs on Houston’s big problem, a base for winter acquisitions, trophy time and an upcoming owners meeting.
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement