foul ball top

Imagine you’re sitting in the Sapporo Dome, cheering for the Nippon Ham Fighters home team, when suddenly you hear the unmistakable crack of a bat. You look up to see where the ball is, only to have it come crashing down right in your eye. Quite the painful end to your evening, sure, but that’s barely the tip of the iceberg; you’re now blind in that eye.

That’s exactly what happened to one woman back in 2010 when a foul ball hit her full in the face, blinding her in one eye. And after years of deliberation, the Sapporo courts have finally reached a decision on her case against the stadium and team.

On August 21, 2010, a woman in her 30s was at the Sapporo Dome watching a Nippon Ham Fighters vs. Seibu Lions game with her husband and child. A line drive foul ball hit her right in the face, fracturing the bones on the right side as well as rupturing her right eyeball.

▼ That’s probably not something you can just write off with a complimentary pair of season tickets.


Despite being a fan of the team, the woman eventually took her case to the courts. During the trial, her lawyer argued: “Since the pitcher is purposely throwing the ball so that the batter cannot hit it easily, even pro-level batters cannot predict the direction and angle the ball will take after hitting it. There should have been safety nets installed to protect the spectators and put them at ease while watching.”

In the U.S., probably the only country in the world where baseball is more popular than it is in Japan, thousands of spectators are hurt every year by foul balls. Safety nets over the entire seating area would help, but then you couldn’t catch any foul balls to take home as souvenirs… and where’s the fun in that?!

The Ham Fighters’ defense argued that the stadium “took sufficient measures to ensure the safety of the spectators.” Adding that “as long as they simply pay attention while watching then they can easily avoid getting hit by foul balls.”

Unfortunately for them, the judge sided with the injured woman and ordered the team to pay her 41,900,000 yen (US$351,498) in damages – a sizeable sum, certainly, but probably less than many in the western world were imagining.

Most netizens in Japan seemed happy with this result, if not surprised that more action wasn’t taken.

“Well they got off cheap.”
“The batter should be the one to pay.”
“The stadium’s defense seems shaky. What about spectators who are nearsighted or have bad vision?”
“Or what if they just look away for a second? Stadiums need more nets.”
“Are there any other body parts we should be prepared to lose when we go to watch a Nippon Ham game?”
“They should just have all spectators wear catchers’ masks. Problem solved.”

What do you think? Would you be willing to give up the chance of a catching a foul ball if it meant never losing an eye? Or is that part of the thrill of going to the stadium in the first place?

Source: Keizai Shinbun via Kanasoku
Featured/top image: Flickr