For a little while, the Houston Astros were defendants in a lawsuit involving the Albuquerque Isotopes, Dave Matranga, a BP home run, and a fractured skull. Allow SI to set the scene:
Four-year-old Emilio Crespin was with his family at a picnic table in the left field stands (Note: this was in Albuquerque) on July 21, 2003, when Dave Matranga of the New Orleans Zephyrs hit a batting practice home run that fractured the boy's skull.
According to the family's lawyer, Crespin suffered permanent brain damage.
The stadium is owned by the city and operated by the Isotopes, the Triple-A affiliate of the Los Angeles Dodgers.
So the family sued the Isotopes for not providing a safe experience. And the City of Albuquerque for not making the Isotopes provide a safe experience. The family also sued Dave Matranga, for hitting a home run. And the Houston Astros, for owning the team that allowed, nay, encouraged Dave Matranga to hit that home run. Anyhow, the Astros were dismissed as defendants. But Albuquerque is still on the hook.
The Crespins say the ballclub was negligent in having people sit in an unprotected area where the placement of tables turns picnickers' attention away from the field and where there are no warning signs or announcements when batting practice begins.
"We send thousands of fans into that picnic area every year,'' Traub said. Church groups, businesses and neighborhood organizations hold picnics before and during games "and it's been tremendously popular with the community.''
"We do our best to run a very safe, family-oriented facility,'' Traub added.
The team's lawyers also argued in court filings that baseball is "a very unique spectator sport.''
"Patrons invite the risk of being hit with a baseball in exchange for an intimate view of the game and the chance to take home a souvenir,'' the lawyers wrote.
Court of Appeals Judge Roderick Kennedy said in his dissent that failure to adopt the "baseball rule'' was a rejection of "nearly one hundred years of American jurisprudence'' and isolates New Mexico from other states.
"While tragic in the extreme, the injuries suffered in this case did not result from any negligence in the conduct of the game or design of the stadium,'' Kennedy wrote.
Depending on where these picnic tables were, a quick ruler measurement on Google Earth puts that homer at 375-415 feet. But I don't know if I've ever thought about going to a game and "inviting the risk" of being hit with a baseball. But I did have a Berkman foul ball hit me in the palm and land in the kid's lap behind me. Of course this was about a week after that guy in Arlington gullet-punched a toddler to get a baseball. So what am I going to do?