Human Reaction Times and Foul Balls Revisited
In an earlier post, in order to make a point about how the average human reaction time to foul balls is more than adequate to at least duck as a foul ball approaches them, if they were paying attention. In that foul ball analysis on FoulBallz.com I used 50 feet as an extreme example of how close a fan can be to the action. Fans, however, are required to sit a minimum of 60 feet
from fair territory. Players in foul territory are often located within 50 feet of fair territory.
The debate about fan injuries spurred a wave of dissent and a call for extended netting during and after the 2015 MLB season. There seemed to have seen a significant rise in fans being injured by foul balls. Whether this is true or a result of heightened awareness or increased media attention is hard to say. Regardless, we know fans are getting injured, some very badly, by foul balls.
The season saw fans at Pittsburgh, Detroit, Cubs, Red Sox, and Royals games, and a host of other games in both the MLB and MiLB suffer injuries which sent the fan to the hospital. Each time this occurs social media erupts in a frenzy of folks calling for MLB to protect fans from these projectiles in spite of the fans knowing they buy MLB seats in these hot zone areas. All those in favor of extended netting cite the “fact” it’s “impossible to react” to a foul ball coming at you.
However, as noted previously, we can now put to rest this myth. Those who claim there’s not enough time to react to a foul ball flying at them have not looked at the facts.
Rule 1.04, part of the “Objectives of the Game” section in the MLB official rules, states the foul lines paralleling the infield set the parameters for minimum distance fans can be seated from the field of play.
MLB standards indicate the foul territory space between home and the backstop and from the foul lines on either side to the stands cannot be less than 60 feet and reads as such:
It is recommended that the distance from home base to the backstop, and from the base lines to the nearest fence, stand or other obstacle on foul territory shall be 60 feet or more.
This applies only to the infield though. Foul territory can narrow to a point in the outfield if the team so chooses. Dodger Stadium is a perfect example of this. Therefore, all fans sit a minimum of 60 feet from the field. This is roughly the same distance the batter is from the pitcher.
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