It’s a scary scene that has become all too familiar in baseball stadiums across the country. A fan is struck by a hard-hit foul ball. A game is delayed while the fan receives medical attention. Players take a knee and say a quick prayer.
It unfolded again Sunday in Dodger Stadium when Cody Bellinger smoked a line drive just beyond the protective netting that extends to the end of the first-base dugout in the first inning of a 6-3 win over Colorado.
The ball struck a young woman in the head. Play was halted for about two minutes while paramedics tended to the fan, who was sitting four rows from the field. After Bellinger flied out to end the inning, he checked on the fan before taking his position in right field.
“You feel for that person,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. “You see a direct hit to that lady, and it came off the bat hot. You never want to see that happen.”
The young woman remained in her seat holding an ice pack on her head for the top of the second before she was taken to a hospital for precautionary tests. The name of the fan was not released, but a person in the stadium first-aid office said she was alert and answering questions.
There was another frightening incident in Houston on May 29 when a foul ball by the Chicago Cubs’ Albert Almora struck a young girl in the head.
The Chicago White Sox and Washington Nationals said last week that they will extend the netting down the lines to the foul poles. They are the first clubs to announce such plans.
A Dodgers spokesperson declined to comment on whether the club plans to implement a similar addition.
But Dodgers pitcher Rich Hill, citing a time in the game when balls are being hit harder than ever and exit velocity is measured and celebrated, is so concerned that he telephoned the Major League Baseball Players’ Assn. last week to voice his opinion: It’s time to extend the protective netting to ensure fan safety.
“It’s such a little investment to protect a life,” Hill said. “Everybody puts their seat belt on when they get in a car. Times change. A lot of things have changed to indicate in these circumstances that we’re in a different time. That’s it. Period.”
Bellinger agrees with Hill, especially after Sunday’s incident. Asked if the netting should be extended, he said, “I would assume that would be a smart decision, just to protect those people in the front row who don’t have much reaction time. I saw the ball hit her face. That was tough.”
The Dodgers lost valuable bench player David Freese until at least July 2 when the infielder was placed on the 10-day injured list because of a left-hamstring strain. The 36-year-old first baseman was replaced on the roster by rookie catcher Will Smith.
The right-handed-hitting Freese has appeared in 56 games, batting .308 (37 for 120) with .999 on-base-plus-slugging percentage, eight homers and 23 RBIs, including a .366 average (15 for 41) with four homers and nine RBIs in June.
He’s hitting .257 (18 for 70) with four homers and eight RBIs against left-handers but has been more productive against right-handers, with a .380 average (19 for 50), four homers and 15 RBIs. He’s batting .429 (nine for 21) with one homer and two RBIs as a pinch-hitter.
“It’s a tough loss because of his at-bats against left-handers, his presence on the bench, but it’s something we can manage, and we’re hopeful he’ll be activated when he’s eligible,” Roberts said. “Fortunately, we have the luxury right now of not putting him in harm’s way to make sure he’s ready for the stretch run.”
Bellinger had another more pleasant interaction with a fan in the ninth inning Sunday when a young woman ran onto the field and was tackled by security guards after approaching the right fielder.
“It seemed like she just wanted a hug,” Bellinger said. “She got tackled and I said, ‘You know you’re going to jail,’ and she said, ‘Yeah, I know, but it’s worth it.’ Maybe not to her parents, but it was funny.”
Roberts said he was “thankful” that Bellinger came out of the incident OK, “and hopefully someone posts bail for this young lady.”
Max Muncy walked in the fourth inning Sunday and has now reached base safely in 32 consecutive games. … Reliever Scott Alexander (left forearm inflammation) threw 25 pitches from a mound Sunday. He is expected to throw another bullpen session and then face live hitters before going on a minor league rehabilitation assignment, probably next week.
Times staff writer Jorge Castillo contributed to this report.