Ihave been to a lot of baseball games in my day, many as a player, some as a fan and quite a few as an umpire.
I've seen my share of people being hit with foul balls, which is what this story is all about. I've been nailed quite a few times as a player and an umpire (behind the plate). It's part of the game.
The people I worry about most are the fans, mostly because they're not always paying attention to foul balls and broken bats, both of which can do a lot of damage if they hit you full flush and in the right place.
So people are right to be concerned about someone being smacked by a foul ball, especially if they are sitting next to young children or elderly folks, who are least likely to be able to defend themselves from a ball traveling upwards of 100 mph or more.
Need a recent example? You might have heard by now about the foul ball hit by a Los Angeles Dodgers player during batting practice Monday night. It went into the stands and hit a 3-year-old girl, who ended up needing surgery for a fractured skull.
No doubt about it, it can be very dangerous to sit or stand out in the open at a baseball game, particularly if you're not alert.
So it was entirely reasonable that Robert Snider Jr. of York was concerned about his elderly father, Robert Snider Sr., also of York, when they arrived at the York Revolution game on Sunday, May 16.
The senior Snider's age? Well, according to Matt O'Brien, general manager of the Revolution baseball organization, he "was well into his 80s."
As it turns out, O'Brien had seen the Snider party in line outside the stadium -- the senior Snider was sitting in a wheelchair -- and helped them get inside.
At some point Snider's son became uncomfortable about the possibility his father could get hit by a foul ball where they were sitting along the third base line. So he spoke to O'Brien about it, and he went the extra mile trying to find a place in the ballpark where the senior Snider would be safe from foul balls.
His solution? He placed the Snider party (five or six people) in seats right behind home plate, where they'd be protected by the thick net that hangs between the playing surface and the press box. It doesn't get much safer than that, O'Brien figured.
No line drives would be getting through the net, that's for sure.
"I felt much better about the situation," O'Brien said. He wiped down the seats ... made the Sniders comfortable ... kept an eye on them throughout the game.
Or so O'Brien thought.
What are the chances of being smacked with a foul ball during a game? I don't know. One in a thousand? Maybe. One in a hundred? But what do you think the chances are of being knocked in the head while sitting behind home plate with a net separating fans from on-the-field play? One in a million? One in 100,000? One in 10,000? It's gotta be fairly high.
Well, sure enough, a player hit a foul popup which carried over the top of the net, over the press box, hit the roof of the stadium and bounced back in behind the net.
And what did it hit? Well, it hit Snider senior on the top of his head.
No kidding. What are the odds?
O'Brien, of course, witnessed the whole thing. So after checking with the guy to make sure he was OK and having him checked out by the stadium's medical personnel -- "he looked OK, but he was stunned," -- O'Brien raced back to the team's gift store, grabbed half-a-dozen baseball helmets off the shelves and gave them to Snider senior and all those in his group to wear.
It's a story with a happy ending.
But it shows two things -- 1. The York Revolution will go the extra mile to serve its fans and patrons; and, 2. no matter how hard Matt O'Brien tries, sometimes the best-laid plans of mice and men still will go awry.
Move the old guy to a safer place to keep him from getting hit on the head with a foul ball, and a foul ball found its way to the old guy anyway.
It's called Murphy's Law.
And you can't escape it, even at a baseball game.
Sports columns by Larry A. Hicks, Dispatch colum nist, run Thursdays. E- mail: lhicks@yorkdis patch.com.