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Illinois senators push Major League Baseball to create foul-ball injury registry

Illinois Democratic Senators Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth, already pushing for more safety netting in ballparks, say fans need to know the locations of dangerous seats.

The White Sox play at Guaranteed Rate Field. | Erin Brown/Sun-Times

WASHINGTON — If Major League Baseball is not collecting information about foul-ball injuries in ballparks, it should, Illinois Democratic Senators Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth said in a letter to Commissioner Rob Manfred.

The request came in a letter to Manfred, with the senators pressuring the commissioner to create an injury registry and make it public so game attendees can see for themselves which seats may be risky — and what teams are doing to mitigate the potential for harm.

MLB keeps track of player injuries at an easy-to-find link at MLB.com but does not offer information to the public about dangerous places to sit in its various stadiums.

“We are writing to encourage Major League Baseball to collect and report data about fan injuries at MLB baseball stadiums. This will provide a more honest public dialogue and help protect baseball’s biggest (and littlest) fans,” said the Durbin and Duckworth letter, dated Aug. 6.

The senators noted there is no updated injury data available.

“We currently rely on media coverage about foul-ball injuries, which can lead to misinformation and confusion,” they said in the letter. “Fans should have more information about injuries. The creation of an injury registry would help provide the public a better understanding of fan injuries at MLB stadiums and help evaluate the voluntary safety measures that many teams are implementing. In addition, we have been told that teams collect data on areas of fan seating, which are more vulnerable to foul balls. Disclosing that information would help inform fans and their families about the safest locations to sit.

“We appreciate the efforts individual teams have taken so far for the safety of fans. Transparency benefits everyone in making informed decisions and preserves the integrity of the game.”

Durbin, a longtime consumer advocate, has made the safety netting issue one of his crusades. Durbin and Duckworth launched their netting campaign in a June 27 letter to Manfred urging all the MLB teams to do more to prevent serious injury or death from foul balls.

In July, the White Sox became the first team to install extra protective netting, covering the areas between foul poles at Guaranteed Rate Field. The Cubs have not announced any enhanced protections, though other clubs have.

On July 9 — on All-Star Game day — Durbin in a four-minute speech on the Senate floor flagged the dangers fans face from foul balls and how they could be avoided with more netting.

Without it, “there is no way, no way for fans to entirely protect themselves,” Durbin said. He noted the White Sox’ extra efforts: “Let me tip my hat to Jerry Reinsdorf, the owner of the Chicago White Sox, for leading the way in the safety measure,” Durbin said.

A call to MLB for comment has not been returned.