HOUSTON — A 4-year-old girl struck by a foul ball during Wednesday night's Cubs-Astros game is expected to be okay, but the incident left a family and Cubs player shaken, and reignited debate over extending the nets at Major League Baseball stadiums.
In the fourth inning, Cubs outfielder Albert Almora Jr. hit a line drive into the field-level stands down the third base line, striking a 4-year-old girl. Some estimate the ball was traveling at speeds of up to 90 mph.
After she was struck, the girl was picked up by a man who appeared to be with her, and he dashed up the stairs as first responders rushed to assist them. After the game, the Astros issued a statement saying the young fan was taken to a hospital, but did not disclose any further details on her condition.
As the stadium fell silent, Almora quickly realized what went wrong. A father himself, he fell to his knees and began to cry. The game was stopped for about two minutes as stadium personnel attended to the fan, with players from each team taking a knee.
While he stayed in the game, Almora remained emotional over the incident, and after the bottom of the fourth inning, he ran over to a security officer near where the ball went into the stands to check out the condition of girl. He then became emotional and hugged the officer before being led to the dugout by teammates Jason Heyward and Javier Baez.
After the game, Almora appeared to still be emotional when he spoke to ESPN about what happened, saying he wanted to "put a net around the whole stadium."
"Right now, I'm just praying and I'm speechless,'' he told ESPN. "I'm at loss of words. Being a father, two boys ... but God willing, I'll be able to have a relationship with this little girl for the rest of my life. But just prayers right now, and that's all I really can control.''
Reports indicate the little girl is going to be okay, and Almora says he plans on reaching out to her and her family personally.
A day later, the incident is the talk of fans and commentators, and has inspired renewed calls to extend protective netting even farther down the lines. They were extended in 2018 after a young fan was hit in Yankee Stadium. Some in and out of MLB favor extending them all the way to the outfield fences.
As the Sox prepare to take on the Indians in a home game Thursday, skipper Ricky Renteria is non-committal about any changes, deferring to the fans.