NET GAINS

Ken Hoffman pitches solution for Major League Baseball safety concerns

Photo courtesy of ABC13/David J. Phillip/AP

This article originally appeared on CultureMap.

"Thoughts and prayers" are a nice, but what are you waiting for, Houston Astros? Extend Minute Maid Park's protective netting all the way to the foul poles now. Let's not have another child get smacked in the head with a 100-mph line drive.

I go to a lot of games. I've seen fans get hit by foul balls and carried out of the stands. I'm surprised that somebody hasn't been killed yet.

A few years ago, Major League Baseball instructed teams to extend the netting to at least the far end of each dugout. That's not nearly far enough. Not even close.

Why not now?

I hear the reasons why some fans don't want the netting extended any farther. They say the netting will interfere with their view of the game. What I think they're really saying is … we don't like authority telling us what's good or bad for us.

"I didn't wear a bike helmet when I was a kid, and I turned out fine."

"I don't need the government telling me I have to wear a seatbelt."

"Why shouldn't schools be allowed to serve soda and French fries in the cafeteria for lunch? Hey, I'll raise my dangerously obese, unhealthy child any way I want."

Well, children should wear bike helmets. It's a smart law. You need to buckle up. Click it or ticket. And our children are fat enough without eating cake and ice cream for lunch.

Get smart

That's not authority telling us what we can or can't do. That's the world growing smarter. It's just common safety sense for baseball to extend protective netting all the way to the foul pole. Do it now.

Netting doesn't affect your view of the game. Rich people, who sit behind home plate in the most expensive seats in the stadium, don't seem to mind being safe. I've sat in those seats a couple of times. You don't even notice the netting. It doesn't lessen your view or enjoyment of the game. And foul balls directed behind the plate typically aren't hit that hard, anyway, that's why they go backwards.

The most dangerous places to sit in a stadium are exactly where there is no netting now, down the foul lines. That's asking for trouble, and a couple of nights ago, trouble arrived.

Sure, a blooper video of a fan holding a baby in one arm, and spilling a beer trying to catch a foul ball with his other arm, is funny. It's also incredibly foolish and lucky.

Continue reading on CultureMap to learn about Ken Hoffman's final thoughts on a solution for MLB.

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Jovan Abernathy is an international marathoner and blogger. Check out her new blog, HTown Run Tourist. Follow her on Twitter @jovanabernathy. Instagram @HTownRunTourist. Facebook @jovanabernathy. Join her facebook group: H-Town Run Tourist

Six years ago, I got this great idea to become a tourist of Houston on foot. I had no idea what I was doing or where it was going. All I knew was to put on my running shoes, walk out the door, and just go. Go learn, go talk, go ask without judgements. What I found is that Houston was full of diversity. We all knew that. However, let yourself be immersed in it. Look and listen to the sounds of different languages being spoken around you. Smell the scents of the different cuisines. You would think you were in a foreign country. This made me more curious.

As I explored the emotion of curiosity, it led me to change my behavior. Where I might have rushed to this place and to the next, I took it slower. Where, usually, I would have just assumed that I already knew, I found myself asking more questions. When I asked more questions, I had to acknowledge that I did not already know, so I practiced listening. As I listened more, I felt compelled to show more appreciation to the person who interrupted their busy day to educate me. This made me feel grateful.

I took that gratitude and wanted to share with others. It blew my mind when people would say that they hated Houston. It was boring. The people are mean and it was ugly. And even more shocking was Houston is not walkable. Instead of getting offended, I decided to do my part in brightening up the day of the Houstonians who were stuck in a rut. Who saw and did the same things day after day. I didn't judge because I knew they could get out of that rut by simply deciding that today they do something different. I braced myself for rejection, but put myself out there to share the wonderful things that I had learned about Houston. Given the chance, the vast majority, was ready to learn a different way. This made me proud.

It is true that 2020 has been full of disasters. These are opportunities if we choose to see them that way. If anything that COVID-19 taught me the answer was not MORE, but it is LESS. We have the tendency to take on too much, we had the unique opportunity to take on less. Thus, instead of going to exhaustion, we had the opportunity to rest.

Then, the tragedy of the death of Houston's own George Floyd happened. It could not have happened at a worse time. My heart goes out to his family. Some might use it as an opportunity to work out their own frustrations by causing more problems with violence and looting. My hope is that whatever happens will be an expression of appropriate sadness, but with Houston's best attributes; curiosity, gratitude, and pride. Instead of LESS it is time for MORE. MORE curiosity. To see if Houston's law enforcement cares about the well-being of Houston's black community and make changes in protocols. MORE gratitude. For the opportunity to express the frustration in a peaceful way. MORE pride. To not destroy this city and give it over to violence possibly doing more damage to the economics of business owners. We can see this as the opportunity to take time to heal.

Houston has changed. As I restart my exploration, I'm not looking for LESS. I'm looking for MORE this time. I'm looking with MORE curiosity. Because I know that we have even MORE to show each other. I'm looking with MORE gratitude because we have endured so much already and there are better times ahead. And, I'm looking with MORE pride because just as we did it before, we still have it in us to do it again. I have one request: if you see me in the streets, promise me that you will say hello.

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