PEORIA (WEEK) – With the Chiefs’ Opening Day less than a week away, a campaign to protect fans from foul balls at minor league baseball parks is picking up steam with sights set on Peoria’s Dozer Park.
A study by Foulballsafetynow.com founder Jordan Skopp found Dozer Park among the worst of the 42 minor league ballparks that lacked protective netting extending beyond the dugouts, netting designed to protect fans from being injured by foul balls.
“Peoria is unfortunately at the top of the list from the people that I’ve connected to from the nearly 100 ballparks that I’ve connected to,” Skopp said.
According to Skopp, at least 39 children were seriously injured by foul balls between 2008 and 2019 at MLB and Minor League games. The Chiefs intended to extend their netting in 2020, but the pandemic intervened, the project was delayed.
The Chief’s General Manager Jason Mott said the company they contacted postponed the Dozer Park project due to COVID-19.
“It’s something, obviously, we wanted to do it, it should have been done,” said Mott. “I would have loved for the pandemic not to happen last year and we wouldn’t even be having this conversation.”
There are no nets behind the dugouts at Dozer Park for the 2021 season, but the Peoria Chiefs say there are plenty of places to catch the game while being safe.
“We have the option for people to be behind the net and it’s been that way for years,” said Mott. “If you’re worried about your safety, you can sit behind the net.”
Skopp spoke with the Chiefs’ general manager about the study, but he isn’t buying what Mott told him.
“I heard the sob story as to why they do not have netting over the dugout,” Skopp said. “It’s a sob story I can’t buy. There’s no nets where they need to be. I would not put my child or my family members anywhere that had no nets.”
“A bruise here and there, and a lot of it honestly has been pop fly balls,” Mott said. “You know foul balls coming up over the net and hitting somebody from that. We’ve been lucky at this point.”
The Chiefs are preparing for Opening Day on Tuesday, May 11, but Skopp says families should take warning and not enjoy a game at the park until the netting is extended.