The New York Yankees were winning against the Minnesota Twins nine to three when Todd Frazier swung. His bat connected, and the ball shot through the air toward the crowd. But when the ball landed, onlookers gasped and erupted in panic.
Todd “The ToddFather” Frazier has been an avid baseball player from a young age. In 1998 he was the star player of his Little League baseball team at just 12 years old. From there, his keenness only grew, as did his passion for his beloved sport.
Frazier went on to Rutgers University in New Jersey, where he continued to display exceptional athleticism. As a result, he carried on down his sporting path by joining the Rutgers Scarlet Knights college baseball team. It was a stepping stone on his journey towards Major League Baseball in 2007.
Frazier currently plays for the New York Mets, but he has turned out for several other teams during his career. Among them are the Chicago White Sox, Cincinnati Reds and the New York Yankees. And it was during his time with the latter that disaster struck.
On September 20, 2017, the New York Yankees were playing at Yankee Stadium against the Minnesota Twins. Not only was it on their home turf, but the Yankees were also winning by nine to three. The crowd must have been elated, in particular the local fans.
Needless to say, the atmosphere in the stadium was pretty buoyant when Frazier stepped up to bat. And it must have been especially exciting for those fans sat close in to the action. But all that was about to change as Frazier swung at the incoming ball.
As it sped towards him, Frazier struck the ball and it arrowed away across the field. The hit was ruled a foul ball, but by then it was too late. The baseball shot off at a speed of 105 miles per hour and headed straight toward the watching crowd.
In the blink of an eye, the ball reached the stadium’s lower seats, where it smashed into the face of one of the onlookers. That person was a junior fan who was just two years of age. Not surprisingly, the shocking event shook everyone present to their core.
Moreover, footage of the event captured the crowd’s reaction. There were chaotic scenes as people reacted to the tragedy. Many fans rushed to the little girl’s aid, including her grandparents, who had accompanied her to the game. One man tried to staunch the blood flowing from the toddler’s injured face.
The atmosphere on the pitch, meanwhile, was comparatively restrained. With the two teams looking stunned by the accident, play was immediately halted. In the event, the break in play lasted for four minutes while a few visibly shaken players stopped to pray for the little girl.
Sportsmen from both teams stood with their hats in their hands, and some lent on their baseball bats for support. Perhaps the most concerned player on the pitch, though, was Frazier. And footage from the game revealed just how distraught he was over the incident.
Frazier collapsed into a squatting position, a mixture of guilt and worry etched on his face. Clearly concerned, the Yankees star stabbed his bat into the ground anxiously. Then, as the stricken child was quickly carried out of the stadium, the game finally resumed.
Moreover, for the players – and for Frazier especially – the nightmare remained. CBS New York reported that he was still emotional when the game finished. The third baseman spoke with reporters shortly after and revealed the incident resonated with him on a personal level.
“I thought of my kids, you know?” Frazier told CBS New York. “I have two kids under three years old, and I just hope she’s alright.” Additionally, he tweeted for people to “keep this beautiful girl in your prayers tonight.”
Medics whisked the girl off to the NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center, her face obviously bloodied. Meanwhile, reporters caught up with her family that evening. Geoffrey Jacobson, the girl’s father, spoke briefly with WABC-NY and said it was “too early to tell” if she needed surgery.
“She’s doing all right, just keep her in your thoughts,” he informed reporters. Worryingly, it wasn’t the first time such an accident had happened at Yankee Stadium, either. Earlier that year on May 24 a little boy was injured when he was struck by pieces from a broken bat.
Although there is safety netting in place at the Yankee Stadium, the material doesn’t stretch past the home plate near the dugout. And understandably, events such as the ones involving the two young children have seen people, Major League Baseball stars chief among them, demanding action. Meanwhile, authorities seemed to be aware of the issue when setting out enhanced netting guidelines back in December 2015.
Fortunately, some baseball stadiums have moved on this advice and have introduced more safeguards. New York’s other team, the Mets, expanded the netting at their Citi Field ground. Rafael L. Espinal Jr., a council member for New York City, subsequently pushed for the Yankees to follow the Mets’ example. “No one should ever go to a baseball game and leave severely injured,” Espinal Jr. told ESPN on September 21, 2017.
What’s more, the Yankees did indeed follow in their rivals’ footsteps: in January 2018 they revealed plans to extend the protective netting at their own Yankee Stadium. Meanwhile, it was later revealed that the Jacobson girl suffered a fractured skull in the incident. The ball’s impact also left her with bleeding on the brain and extreme swelling in both eyes.
Jacobson says his daughter is slowly recovering, and Frazier has been very supportive, calling the family daily while the girl was in hospital. “Since then we have spoken from time to time,” Jacobson told the New York Post on April 14, 2018. “He didn’t have to do that. The Mets are lucky to have him, and our family will always be fans of Todd Frazier.”