Take Me Out to the Ball Game … With Caution

Baseball With the recent death of baseball fan Shannon Stone, followed only four days later by another fan, Keith Carmickle, dangling over the railing at Chase Field and nearly falling himself, baseball is becoming the most dangerous sport … for spectators, that is.

I wondered what the social media universe had to say about these recent events, so I tracked the top trending dates around baseball spectator safety using Attensity’s social media analysis solution, Attensity360 (full disclosure: Attensity is a client of ours).

Unsurprisingly, Stone’s July 7 death after falling over the railing at Rangers Ballpark while attempting to catch a ball thrown into the crowd was met with the highest chatter on social media sites of all dates within the last month. The next highest peak occurred – again unsurprisingly – on July 11, coinciding with the Carmickle incident and Major League Baseball almost seeing another man fall from the stands. To make matters worse, just as baseball’s most social fans were beginning to shift their discussion away from spectator safety, a light bulb is shattered at Tropicana Field, sending glass to fall into the stands and igniting the most recent peak in social media chatter on the danger at ballparks.

Attensity360 - Baseball Spectator Danger Topic Trend

More surprising, on the other hand, are the top sources that Attensity360 highlighted. The results using Attensity’s solution showed that the online sources covering most of the news about baseball spectator safety and Stone’s death have come from national sites and such regions as Boston, instead of Texas, the home of Stone and Rangers Ballpark. One could argue that there may be less online presence for Texas news outlets, but it is apparent that this is becoming a much larger story and one that is being discussed and covered not only by Texans, but all Americans.

A360-Top Sources

So, how has the MLB responded to this obvious concern from fans nationwide? When asked in a recent conference about deeming the railings “adequate” following a similar accident almost exactly a year ago, Rangers owner Nolan Ryan responded with “No comment.” (For those who read my last post on tainted spokespersons, you know how further damaging a “no comment” can be.)

To be fair, this is nothing new in baseball, as the MLB has consistently adopted a culture of silence, particularly with the steroids incidents of years past. And, until stadiums adopt stricter regulations on railing height, fans need to act more cautiously in the stands. However, that doesn’t stop me from applauding the Rangers’ best PR move to date following the Stone incident: On July 19, the Texas Rangers announced they will raise the height of the safety rails at Rangers Ballpark, and will also install signs reading, "Do not lean, sit on, or stand against rail," on the railings in front of all outfield seating and on all upper-level seating. Hopefully, other ballparks across the nation will follow suit, and we can go back to a time when the biggest threat to fans was the price of food!

Jordan Hubert can be reached at jhubert@sterlingpr.com. Follow Jordan on Twitter @jahubert.

Photo credit: Andy Menarchek via Flickr