It was difficult to watch the replays of Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper crashing into the outfield wall and fence at Dodger Stadium on Monday night, and then to see him go down to the ground. The jammed shoulder and 11 stitches under his chin are an example of how hard he went into the wall, and what the phenom will do to try to record an out at all costs.
It is important for Harper to be careful in those situations, but it also a part of his go-all-out mentality, which is one of the reasons why he is the player he is today.
Even Dodgers manager Don Mattingly admitted to reporters after the game it was a “scary” moment. He said, “That fencing we have is a little dangerous. If you hit that, you’re going to feel it, especially face first.”
But what about the safety of outfielders as they approach outfield walls at stadiums around the major leagues? Can anything be done to make the walls safer with padding and eliminate chain link-style fences?
It is common in several parks around the league to have those chain link-style covers for out-of-town scoreboards, for example. The chain links are not like the usual chain links you might see on your neighborhood lawns. They are coated for some protection for cuts and do give a bit more than a padded wall would when an outfielder comes crashing into them.
But would it be safer if the out-of-town scoreboard could be eliminated (or moved) in those instances, and placed either on the main scoreboard or on the ribbon scoreboards that are between upper and lower levels of most parks?
It is certainly a thought.
The various walls around the majors are part of the signatures for many of these stadiums, and are certainly more interesting than the donut-style multi-purpose fields of the past in, say, Cincinnati or Philadelphia.
But does Tal’s Hill and flagpole really need to be in the field of play in Houston? There has been talk about razing the unique feature:
Of course, there is the famous ivy that covers a brick outfield wall at Wrigley Field. That is not going to be changed and outfielders always must be ready when approaching the wall in the Chicago Cubs’ home.
But there are also pitching mounds for bullpens that are in play at a few parks down the foul lines around the majors. Infielders and outfielders must be wary when approaching these areas while chasing down foul or fair balls.
The O.co Coliseum (Oakland A’s), AT&T Park (San Francisco Giants), Petco Park (San Diego Padres), Tropicana Field (Tampa Bay Rays) and Wrigley Field (Cubs) are examples of parks that have their bullpens down the foul lines on the field of play.
Players have to always be aware of the variances and trouble spots at every major league park, but there also are a few things that Major League Baseball could do to make it more safe for the players as they fly towards a baseball.