Live baseballs in stands can seriously injure fans

Hardball hazard

  • Follow Baseball

Kim Shealy doesn't remember who was at the plate or even which team was batting. In an instant her family outing at Lake Olmstead Stadium was shattered, and the Martinez mother learned a painful, and costly, lesson about safety at a minor league baseball game.

Back | Next
Fan Kim Shealy, wearing a shirt with green stripes, covers her mouth after being hit by a foul ball during a June Augusta GreenJackets game at Lake Olmstead Stadium. Shealy, who was holding her 9-month-old son when she was hit, wound up with a $30,000 dental bill.  Michael Holahan/Staff
Michael Holahan/Staff
Fan Kim Shealy, wearing a shirt with green stripes, covers her mouth after being hit by a foul ball during a June Augusta GreenJackets game at Lake Olmstead Stadium. Shealy, who was holding her 9-month-old son when she was hit, wound up with a $30,000 dental bill.

Sitting behind the Augusta GreenJackets dugout at a game in late June, Shealy was hit in the mouth by a foul ball. The ball connected with such force that her head popped back, and three of her teeth were knocked out.

She only remembers the sound.

"At first it sounded like a bell or a gong," Shealy said. "I didn't feel it right away, but I knew something had happened."

While balls and bats can enter the stands and cause serious injury, such occurrences aren't common. The GreenJackets post warning signs throughout Lake Olmstead Stadium, and a pregame announcement over the public address system reminds fans of the risks of sitting so close to the action.

A tall net lines the area behind home plate, shielding those fans from foul tips, but most of the seating areas are unprotected.

The children's playground down the left field line also has a net, but there is a chance a ball with the right trajectory can clear the net and land in the play area.

Shealy wants fans to learn from her injury and be aware of their surroundings. In her case, it could have been worse: Shealy was holding her 9-month-old son, Dylan, when the line drive hit her. The foul ball missed the baby by less than a foot.

"I've never seen anything like that, and I never even thought of the possibility that it could happen," she said. "I don't even want to think what would happen if it had hit my son. That would have been awful."

Brian Zicari, in his first year as an usher at Lake Olmstead Stadium, said he was one section over from Shealy when she got hit.

"If you're not watching and the ball comes screaming off the bat, you're not going to have time to react," Zicari said.

Lake Olmstead Stadium staff rushed to help Shealy, who was able to walk to the concourse level, where a permanent first-aid station is always staffed with a registered nurse.

Shealy's injuries weren't life-threatening, but she lost five teeth (two were later pulled) and she wound up with a dental bill of about $30,000. She does have insurance.

"This was by far the worst accident I've seen in my years of baseball," GreenJackets general manager Nick Brown said. "We want people to have fun and enjoy the ballgame, but you need to pay attention."

Although the GreenJackets aren't liable for such injuries -- a warning is printed on the back of every ticket stub -- the Augusta front office has remained in contact with Shealy and offered to help in her recovery.

"We're going to do our best to help her out any way we can," Brown said. "She's more than welcome to come back when she's ready to come back."

Shealy said her husband, Geoff Shealy, is far too much of a baseball fan for her family to avoid GreenJackets games for good. But she said she's got several months of dental work remaining, and a night at the ballpark isn't in the family's immediate future.

"It might not be soon, but, yeah, we'll be back," she said. "We can't stay away forever, but it's going to take some time."

The GreenJackets are currently in the middle of a five-game homestand over a weekend packed with kid-friendly promotions and games. Myron Noodleman will entertain fans during tonight's Nerd Night. Saturday's game will honor military men and women, and the promotion for Sunday's game includes a kids-eat-free deal.

Shealy has some advice for parents planning to take their children to a game this weekend.

"Be very aware," she said. "That's all I can say. I wasn't paying attention, and look what happened. I won't take my kids back without sitting behind the net."

Printed warning

On the back of every Augusta GreenJackets ticket, it says: "The holder assumes all risk and danger incidental to the game of Baseball, whether occurring prior to, during, or subsequent to the actual playing of the game, including specifically (but not exclusively), the danger of being injured by thrown bats and thrown or batted balls, and agrees that Minor League Baseball, the South Atlantic League, the Participating Clubs, their Agents and Players, and other individuals are not liable for injuries resulting from such causes."

By the numbers

43: Foul balls per game, as estimated in a 2006 Augusta Chronicle article that documented chasing foul balls at a GreenJackets game

70: GreenJackets home games in a season

84: Baseballs used in a South Atlantic League game, as estimated by Aaron Larsen, one of two umpires scheduled to work this weekend's series at Lake Olmstead Stadium

300: Pitches thrown during a nine-inning game

21,000: Approximate pitches thrown during a season at Lake Olmstead Stadium

Comments (16) Add comment
ADVISORY: Users are solely responsible for opinions they post here and for following agreed-upon rules of civility. Posts and comments do not reflect the views of this site. Posts and comments are automatically checked for inappropriate language, but readers might find some comments offensive or inaccurate. If you believe a comment violates our rules, click the "Flag as offensive" link below the comment.
andywarhol
0
Points
andywarhol 07/09/10 - 01:11 am
0
0
henry, are you saying that if

henry, are you saying that if a business provides us with entertainment and they even warn us of the risks involved that they should be sued when a person who accepted the risk is injured?

johnston.cliff
2
Points
johnston.cliff 07/09/10 - 05:22 am
0
0
Well, I played baseball every

Well, I played baseball every season from '59 to '70 and saw foul balls go into the crowd in almost every game. The fans, who were there to watch the game , were ready for the ball, be it pop up or line drive or deflected off of a pole or dugout. Many were wearing gloves during the whole game, but most either bare handed it or just ducked. Most of the older fans sat behind the plate so the backstop would offer the most protection.
I'm hating the woman got smacked in the mouth, but any activity you you're involved in (and obviously the crowd IS involved with foul balls) can lead to injury if your attention drifts at the wrong time.

stillamazed
1488
Points
stillamazed 07/09/10 - 06:17 am
0
0
Duhhhhh. Some things are just

Duhhhhh. Some things are just common sense things. You know when you go that you take a risk of possible being injured, and I don't think anyone should have the right to sue because of it. That is the problem with this country, it is filled with a bunch of law suit seeks freaks and blood thirsty lawyers willing to take on such frivolous cases. I fill sorry that she got hurt but she doesn't deserve to get paid for it.

Dixieman
16595
Points
Dixieman 07/09/10 - 06:24 am
0
0
Common sense. No

Common sense. No compensation for her, no lawyers, if you go to a ballgame you have to watch for the ball!

bettyboop
7
Points
bettyboop 07/09/10 - 06:49 am
0
0
OUCH !!!!!

OUCH !!!!!

Dudeness
1546
Points
Dudeness 07/09/10 - 07:29 am
0
0
We were sitting up in the

We were sitting up in the stands behind this woman. You could tell it was bad. My wife doesn't want to sit any closer than we did for this very reason.

Riverman1
90742
Points
Riverman1 07/09/10 - 07:50 am
0
0
Of course, we baseball

Of course, we baseball aficianados know you have to watch the game for protection, but I've been to Green Jacket games and noted to a friend the crowd doesn't. We looked around and couldn't find anyone watching the game. Minor league baseball is a social, drinking and eating event for most.

You even have to be aware between innings when the infielders are warming up. We were behind the first base dugout and the throws from the shortstop to the first baseman were right on line with us. A high throw could have nailed someone and one did make it into the stands.

CarlA
114
Points
CarlA 07/09/10 - 08:43 am
0
0
Bottom Line, pay attention if

Bottom Line, pay attention if you choose to sit in certain areas of the park

jb1234
0
Points
jb1234 07/09/10 - 09:21 am
0
0
'Keep your eye on the ball'

'Keep your eye on the ball' isn't just good advice for the batter, it's also good advice for the patron.

Kh0pper
0
Points
Kh0pper 07/09/10 - 03:24 pm
0
0
How scary! Hope she is okay.

How scary! Hope she is okay. But folks, I can't lie - I'm more shocked to see my nephew AyJay standing up to the right in the white polo. He looks like he's heading down there to see what's going on. Hi AJS !!!

proudfather
0
Points
proudfather 07/09/10 - 09:58 am
0
0
I was at the game sitting

I was at the game sitting behind homeplate. It seems to me that the minor league parks that I have attended have a smaller foul ball area putting the seats closer to the action. I don't think she could have dodged the ball even if she had been paying closer attention. The ball was on top of her before she knew it.

baronvonreich
0
Points
baronvonreich 07/09/10 - 10:31 am
0
0
Obviously another reason to

Obviously another reason to build a downtown baseball stadium ain't it countyman???

chasboy
0
Points
chasboy 07/09/10 - 10:35 am
0
0
$30,000 bucks for 5 teeth?

$30,000 bucks for 5 teeth? Wow! I feel sorry for her getting hurt but it's a great thing she had dental insurance because that Dentist made out like a bandit.

corgimom
36811
Points
corgimom 07/09/10 - 11:02 pm
0
0
If you're getting implants,

If you're getting implants, it's about $5,000 per tooth.

KSL
140451
Points
KSL 07/09/10 - 11:09 pm
0
0
And if she has nice dental

And if she has nice dental insurance, she would choose the implant route since she isn't paying.

Fiat_Lux
16246
Points
Fiat_Lux 07/10/10 - 09:04 pm
0
0
If her teeth were knocked

If her teeth were knocked out, that's pretty much the standard option these days. A partial plate would be a really distant fall-back decision. An injury like this might have a least some part of the treatment covered by her health insurance rather that just dental.

Back to Top

Search Augusta jobs