Michael Lanphier is a true dyed-in-the-wool Durham Bulls fan.
At least 65 games a year, he sits faithfully behind home plate, practically pressed against the net.
His game day seats are why he feels so deeply for the family of 44-year-old Tonya Carpenter who was critically injured by a broken bat at a Boston Red Sox game Friday, June 5, 2015. As of Monday afternoon, Carpenter was listed as responsive and in “fair condition.”
“The sickness I felt, especially seeing the child. And the women just literally, she was just in such immense…” Lanphier said with emotion too strong to finish the sentence. “I’ve never seen such pain except for perhaps some of my days in the service.”
He posts up in a near-mirror image of Carpenter’s Fenway seat — with one exception.
“Where that incident occurred in Boston, it would be behind our net,” Bulls general manager Mike Birling said.
Since Durham Bull Athletic Park’s construction, the safety net has extended from dugout-to-dugout, sheltering seven sections from eye-level to bird’s eye perspective.
“In the early 1990’s, that’s when Major League Baseball came up with requirements for Minor League stadiums,” Birling said. “Obviously safety was a concern when this place was built in 1995. It was, ‘let’s go beyond those requirements.’”
Management has had continuing conversations with season ticket-holders about extending the netting down each baseline. It is a push-and-pull process with spectators sore over potentially fuzzier sight-lines.
“It really does come down to what is the safest way to protect our fans,” Birling said. “If this incident decides how Major League Baseball reacts, we’ll be right there with them reacting.”
That proactivity by the Bulls is a reassuring line of thought for Lanfear.
“I’ve always seen the safety here,” Lanphier said. “They go above and beyond, they really do.”
Thanks to WRALSportsFan.com’s Jared Fialko & Aaron Schoonmaker for this capcom story.