Fouled Off: Foul Ball Flashbacks of the First Two Weeks

The first two weeks of the 2016 MLB season are now long gone. What are the most notable topics to come out of the start of the new season?


The first week of MLB baseball saw more seats blocked by netting. The reviews are mixed. People like Stephen King hate the netting. Others think it’s great.

The netting is a nuisance. Given a couple photos I’ve seen on Twitter, at night the netting will create a glare which makes it difficult to see the game. Therefore, netting creates an obstructed view…so why are the seats still expensive?

It also costs a great deal more to install and maintain than my other options for protecting fans—Plexiglas and family sections.

Regardless, one very interesting thing happened during the first week in relation to the new netting:

Regardless, one very interesting thing happened during the first week in relation to the new netting: More fans were hit in the face by foul balls than any of the previous four seasons I’ve been doing this. At the end of the first full week of games, a total of 10 fans (1 at the MiLB level) had been hit in the face by a foul ball. As of April 13, that number is up to 13 fans. MORE than one per day. The rate last season was about one per every days of games.

Five days later, as of April 17, 2016, that total had jumped to 21 MLB fans having been nailed in the face or upper body (chest, neck, etc.) by a foul ball. In 15 days, we had 21 reports on Twitter ONLY. These are those reported with the words “foul ball” in them. I have yet to go through just “foul” and “foul balls.” I’ve seen three reports from MiLB-related tweets.

Yet netting was meant to stop or minimize this very problem. It appears it’s made things worse by giving fans farther down the field a false sense of security.

It appears the netting is pointless, and it’s giving fans in the sections farther out a false sense of security, as they think balls on the other side of the dugout won’t hurt them.

When we look back at the Chicago White Sox / Tampa Bay Rays incident on April 15, 2016 we see how netting simply is a bad idea. It’s an example of why I told Manfred this was a horrible idea. The ball slipped through the netting. THROUGH the netting and clobbered the fan.

I’d noted in my letters to Manfred and in posts that there would be issues like this, and when they happened, MLB WOULD be fully liable for the injuries. And now we see the problem with extended netting.


The second notable thing is the five foul ball snags by Detroit Tigers fan Bill Dugan. He caught four game balls and one BP ball. If we exclude the BP ball, Bill Dugan is the first fan to snag four game used foul balls in the last two seasons.

In 2013, a Cleveland Indians fan and a Twins fan both did the same thing—four gamers. The Cleveland fan’s accomplishment set off a storm of debate about the odds of snagging four balls. ESPN Stats and Info erroneously reported it to be something like a billion to one.

The fact is the odds don’t change. There are a number of criteria what have to be met for the similar action to take place. If the pitcher/batter matchup is similar each time the balls were hit, then the balls will tend toward that area. If the batters are constantly behind the pitch, they’ll foul it off. Therefore, the odds for each ball are the same. In this case, the odds of Bill Dugan catching each ball, based on the average 2015 attendance at Comerica Park, they were 1121 to one.

But the attendance of 2016 Tigers games has been 32,557, so odds are significantly lower.

Include in this his reach. He was standing up in what is now considered a hot zone due to the extended netting. With his ability to reach and mobility by standing, he’s increased his odds considerably.

This isn’t meant to diminish his feat. It is an amazing one, and a fairly rare one.


Ed Comber (VP Of The BBBA/Owner –  

About FoulBallzEd

I run I research and write about foul ball information and fan safety issues mainly. There's the occasional piece about the Tigers. Active on Twitter as @FoulBallz.

Posted on April 19, 2016, in foul ball injuries, Foul Balls. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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