Attention: Flying projectiles go into the crowds at baseball games at any time.
It's one of the many reasons that make going to a baseball game so entertaining. Not only does the crowd get to watch the game, but individuals also have the opportunity to catch a free souvenir - be it a baseball or, on rare occasions, a bat.
It's such a big portion of the spectacle that is the game of baseball that people react to what happens when the foul balls come to ground, celebrating when someone makes a good grab and voicing displeasure when someone drops a catchable ball. Even foul-ball catches make the Sportscenter Top 10 or the weekly Not Top 10, when they fail spectacularly enough.
The saying goes that it's all fun and games until someone gets hurt, though, and those flying projectiles can cause injuries. The worst of those injuries happened four years ago when young Luke Holko was hit by a foul ball. In that instance, the ball came at such a speed, the injury was unavoidable.
However, in the Mahoning Valley Scrappers' 5-1 loss to Vermont on Sunday, two instances of foreign objects making their way into the stands occurred. And the two had much different outcomes.
The first was perhaps the worst, although it could have been avoided. In the top half of the third inning, a foul ball went over the net hanging above the backstop and landed in Section 203. It was a rather routine foul ball - a high arcing flight before free falling back to the stands - and normally that sort of ball leaves nothing more than a bruised ego from missing the catch.
This time, however, nobody caught the ball, and it didn't bounce off the concrete and cause a scramble to pick up the ball. Instead, it plunked a woman right on the top of her head, causing a small gash and some blood to come out. All attention was on her for 10 to 15 minutes while the paramedics at the ballpark made sure she was OK. While she left the seats in a wheelchair, it turned out to be nothing more than her needing some stitches, and she didn't need to go to the hospital via an ambulance.
Despite the good news, this should not have happened because of how long it took for the ball to go from the plate to the stands. It wasn't a line drive - in fact, it had a lot more air under it, more than most that into the stands. The woman made no movement to avoid the ball, which seemed to point out that she wasn't paying attention. If she had, the collision of ball-to-head would have been avoided.
The other instance in the game occurred in the bottom of the seventh inning, with the Scrappers' Cody Ferrell at the plate. As he swung through a pitch, he let go of the bat, and it went toward the third-base dugout.
The screen and the roof of the dugout helped shield the crowd from the original collision, but the ricochet still managed to go into the crowd behind the net. The bat struck a fan, but this time, the damage wasn't nearly as bad. The fan protected himself with his arm, and after it fell harmlessly to the ground, he passed it forward to give back to the batter.
This was the difference between the two instances - because he paid attention, nothing serious occurred and was hardly scratched.
Fans can learn from this. Although talking with family and friends will happen, keeping one eye on the game can cut down on the possibility of leaving prematurely.