Protecting your family and the general public should be number one goal when attending minor league baseball this season.

Legislators and Baseball Management sit by and do nothing while spectators will be injured again this year. On July 6, 2007 my family attended a Trenton Thunder baseball game. Several people in that one game where hit by foul balls rocketing into the stands. My wife was seriously injured when struck in the face, shattering all her front teeth, tearing her lips into shreds, and breaking up her palate. She is still going through medical procedures.

After 20 months of lobbying, writing letters and visiting legislators in New Jersey, I can say nothing has changed. The head of minor league baseball has told my state senator, Christopher Bateman, “that they feel foul ball risk is something that should be addressed on a local basis.”

My assemblyman, Peter Biondi, has told me that there is no will to change the “New Jersey Baseball Spectator Safety Act of 2006,” which he co-sponsorerd. This law gives total immunity of liability to minor league baseball owners while providing no spectator safety as the title implies. Now with this new law there is no incentive to improve the safety at minor league baseball stadiums in New Jersey. You and your children are allowed to be hit by bats or balls rocketing into the stands and this law gives them the right. You will also pay your own medical expenses (as I continue to do).

The other signers of the New Jersey Baseball Spectator Safety Act (Assemblyman Patrick Diegnan, Senator Wayne Bryant, Senator Robert Singer, and Assemblyman Upendra Chivukula) all are sorry but do not want to address this public safety issue. The management of Trenton Thunder claims that they have a perfect safety record, but they do not want to release any spectator injury data for public review.

In an article dated October 14, 2007, the Times of Trenton reported that the Trenton Thunder’s incident log from the past season showed that “one out of about 400,000 required medical transportation to the hospital due to a game-related incident, such as a foul ball,” according to then General Manager Brad Taylor. “Taylor did not comment on the number of spectators who were injured in the park this past season.” In the Courier News on December 9, 2007, Taylor said that during an average year, one person is taken to the hospital because of a foul ball going into the stands.

“When you think about over 400,000 fans a year coming here and almost 6 million fans over 14 years, it’s a minute percentage” Taylor said. But if you do the arithmetic that’s 15 people seriously injured at one location. Or last year 42.8 million people attended minor league games nationally. If that injury ratio applies equally it means that some 107 people were brought to hospitals nationally last year.

Only Senator Shirley Turner has made an effort to find out what is going on with this issue. She has entered a bill into legislation, Senate No. 1820 that would require baseball stadium owners to disclose spectator injuries that result from being struck by a ball or bat. Assemblywoman Bonnie Watson Coleman is looking into placing an amendment into the NJ Assembly to provide more safety for families as the New Jersey Baseball Spectator Safety Act of 2006 implies.

Presently, there is no statistical data on how many spectators (i.e., families, men, women and children) are being injured each year by minor league baseball.

“Waterfront Park is considered a Mercer County facility that is partially supported by tax dollars and the county does not require the stadium to submit safety reports or incidents logs,” according to spokeswoman Julie Willmot. When discussing this issue with the chief of staff for Assemblywoman Denise Coyle, he attended the 2008 opening night at the Somerset Patriots game which a woman was struck in the face and brought to an area hospital.

Spectator injuries are not a freak thing that occur occasionally, but are a consistent aspect of attending minor league baseball games in New Jersey. The nurse from my doctor’s office attended Waterfront Park with her church group. She had an 18-month-old child hit in the temple and required brain scans. When I have discussed this issue with other people I have never met, they all seem to have a story of someone hit or almost hit while attending minor league baseball in New Jersey.

Bringing your child into the stands without being behind the safety screening is absolutely endangering the welfare of that child. So when will owners increase the safety netting so that the injuries to spectators are stopped?

Minor league teams would rather have an open view, the ability to have their mascot run on the wall between the field, and souvenirs for the fans to collect a ball from the game (even though ball boys could be told to throw foul balls that hit the screen into the stands). The teams are against increasing the safety netting that would protect the families that attend. Unless required by law to document the injuries to spectators at minor league baseball, people like the former Thunder general manager can say they have a safe facility. But how does the public really know unless this data is collected and available for public review?

Baseball has overlooked the use of performance enhancing drugs by its players and they want you to overlook the injuries they are causing to spectators at their games.

Please support this amendment to the “New Jersey Baseball Spectator Safety Act of 2006” and protect your family behind the safety screen at home plate if you attend these games. They refuse to increase the safety screening to protect the spectators and don’t deserve your loyalty or patronage.

Kevin Kerod

Belle Mead

Editor’s note: The writer is a facilities manager for a College Road-based research firm. His wife, an employee of Johnson & Johnson, was on disability for three months following the incident.

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