Congress rarely sits on the sidelines when it comes to highly-publicized sports issues. And this time, a top lawmaker is inserting himself in the middle of a Yankees game.
A day after a foul ball rocketed off Todd Frazier’s bat into the face of a young girl sitting behind third base at Yankee Stadium, Senator Dick Durbin sent a message to baseball and MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred: “For the good of the sport and the safety of your fans: extend the nets.”
It’s not the first time Congress has gotten involved in the national pastime. During the steroid era, sluggers like Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa and Jose Canseco were called to testify in 2005 for hearings, where members of Congress took batting practice on their reputations. Shame is but one consequence, and a fairly minor one. There can be formal investigations or questions about whether beloved tax breaks and antitrust exemptions should continue to exist. That’s a way down the road though. It almost always starts with a letter.
Durbin, a Chicago Cubs fan from Illinois, once took to the House floor as a young representative to give a passionate speech on the evils of aluminum bats. The wood stayed in play.
Now the Senate’s 2nd-ranking Democrat, Durbin has his sights set on baseball’s safety standards.
Manfred told reporters in Seattle that protective netting standards remain an “ongoing discussion” within baseball, ESPN reported, adding that the MLB gave guidelines on netting two years ago and have encouraged individual clubs “to try to make a good decision about how far the netting should go in order to promote fan safety.”
Yet Durbin says only 10 of 30 Major League Baseball teams have extended the nets. “The latest tragic incident of a young child struck by a foul ball at Yankee Stadium should be a clarion call to professional baseball that it is time to put the safety of your fans first,” Durbin said.
Durbin ended his note to Manfred by saying he is eager “to discuss the steps being taken to encourage common sense safety measures at ballparks.”
He didn’t need to complete the threat. In Washington-speak, the “or else” is implied.