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Rossi: Safety nets obstruct baseball’s beauty | TribLIVE.com
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Rossi: Safety nets obstruct baseball’s beauty

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Tonya Carpenter, a fan who accidentally was hit in the head with a broken bat by the Oakland Athletics’ Brett Lawrie, is helped from the stands during a game against the Boston Red Sox on Friday, June 5, 2015, at Fenway Park in Boston.

Three hours taking in a view like no other is worth two round-trip hours in a car. Slippery Rock’s Chris Benninger gladly makes that trade about 10 times every baseball season, and he did again Tuesday.

He was at PNC Park to watch the Pirates.

But he’s human. His eyes are easily drawn to beauty. And there isn’t anything more beautiful than our ballpark’s backdrop: the golden Clemente Bridge, the shimmering Allegheny River and Pittsburgh’s expanding downtown skyline.

“I used to have seats behind the dugout,” Benninger said. “So I had to pay attention a lot.”

That should come with the territory when taking in a major league game. Pay attention, and you won’t miss something. A couple of weeks back, I missed the rarest of triple plays — a 4-5-4 variety turned by Neil Walker and Jung Ho Kang — because I was talking to a friend. But we were sitting near the top of the second level, far away from the action.

A lot of people were much closer to the action, down the first- and third-base lines, within spitting distance of the warning track.

If you can spit on the crushed red brick at PNC Park, you can take a foul ball to the skull, or a shard of bat to the eye.

Intimacy is not without its risks.

We were reminded, quite horrifically, of those risks Friday when Tonya Carpenter was struck in the head by a bat that broke during a swing by Oakland’s Brett Lawrie in a game at Boston’s Fenway Park. She remains hospitalized, upgraded from serious to fair condition after initially suffering life-threatening injuries, according to police.

Commissioner Rob Manfred said his office will re-evaluate fan safety at its stadiums.

Let’s hope serious consideration is not given to extending protective netting from one foul pole to the other.

“It would take something away,” Benninger said. “Who wants an obstructed view?”

And who doesn’t want to catch a foul ball?

The first thing major league owners and the players’ union must do is agree on what really is a threat to fans.

Bats, not balls, are the threat. Mostly, it’s pieces of bats, which are hard to spot even if you are paying attention to the action.

A company in Arizona has developed a clear wrap that contains a bat’s pieces when it shatters. Kevin Young, a former Pirates player, is on the board of Sportswrap, but he is involved with the company because of his major league experience.

“I was an infielder, and I knew infielders and pitchers were oblivious when bats shattered and the pieces came at you,” Young said.

“When I heard about this wrap, I thought back to that. Then I started thinking how this could help keep fans safe from the broken bats.”

I’m all for it.

I’m all for anything that keeps netting from stretching pole-to-pole. A ballpark needn’t feel like a spider web.

At the ballpark, you feel like you’re in touch with what’s going on. You don’t get that at a football stadium or hockey rink. If nothing else, there is an illusion of a tactile experience every time you’re at a big league game.

Baseball can’t lose that illusion.

Baseball already has lost too much of its illusion.

Rob Rossi is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at [email protected] or via Twitter @RobRossi_Trib.

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