The tragic event Thursday night that resulted in the death of Texas Rangers fan Shannon Stone at the Ballpark in Arlington should be a wake up call for Major League Baseball. The marketing gurus at MLB thought it would be a good idea to use "gold balls" in the 2011 MLB Home Run Derby. Stone's death should serve as a reminder of how fans act when faced with the possibility of getting a souvenir ball of the normal variety. Who knows what will happen when the big sluggers hit a $150 "gold ball" into the stands.
MLB released a statement about the fan death in Texas but doesn't mention any specific changes.
"All of us at Major League Baseball are shocked and saddened over the tragic death of Mr. Stone last evening. Our thoughts and prayers are with his son and his entire family. Major League Baseball has the utmost sensitivity to the safety of all the fans that come to our ballparks. Our players are encouraged to be fan-friendly and we will carefully review this incident with our clubs to continue to ensure a safe environment for our fans."
The layout of the outfield at Chase Field is inherently safer than some other parks but not without danger areas. The height of the wall in left field removes much of the danger while in right field the pool and a handicap seating area between the wall and the stands makes things a bit more complicated. It gets even more dicey as you move back to the walkways in left and right center field and the areas above the bullpens. And of course, there's always the possibility of a foul ball hit into the upper decks.
Even if a fall isn't the concern, the very likely prospect of fans leaping over each other to get the "gold ball" should give MLB officials pause.