When University of Georgia baseball fans and unsuspecting Athens citizens park in the Foley Field parking lot, there’s a chance to come back to a car which has been struck by an errant baseball.
Since the beginning of 2019, there have been at least 18 cases of cars damaged by foul balls and home runs, according to reports from the University of Georgia Police Department.
Typically, these cases come from damage being done to parked cars in the lot adjacent to the left field wall of Foley Field. Other areas like the Butts-Mehre Heritage Hall parking lot behind the front entrance of the stadium have been affected as well.
If the damage happens during a baseball game, chances are Associate Director of Event Management, Dave Williams, will have a hand in its solution.
According to Williams — who has been an employee of the Athletics Association for 37 years and involved with the baseball team for 19 years — the first thing he does when he or other employees hear about an incident is contact UGAPD so officers can get an accurate report of what took place and what damage was done.
Then, the report is sent to the Georgia Athletic Association’s business office where they get in contact with insurance agencies to get a repair for the damage completed.
The way the Georgia Athletic Association deals with damages to cars on its property is a relatively simple system, and Williams said that it has been successful for “many years.”
But, that’s if the damage is done during a baseball game, which only happens around five times every year, according to Williams.
Where the numbers catch up is in practice, when players hit home runs into the left field parking lot much more frequently. Georgia baseball head coach Scott Stricklin attested to the fact that baseballs often hit cars, and he and his players have learned not to park out there.
“If it’s in batting practice and it’s quiet, you can hear them sometimes and you cringe,” Stricklin said regarding baseballs hitting windshields and mirrors. “When you got a parking lot behind the outfield fence, you’re going to get some cars hit, unfortunately.”
18 incidents may not seem that shocking, but Stricklin and Williams both said that there have been talks to make changes to the stadium to prevent baseballs from doing anymore damage.
One possible solution is adding bleachers past the left field wall, bringing twofold benefits. First, more seats accomodate more fans, which increases ticket sales and in turn, revenue. Also, it would prevent cars just past the bleachers from getting hit with baseballs.
Another possibility is putting up netting, but that doesn’t bring in the possible profit as compared to if bleachers or stands were put in left field instead.
James Cooney — a season ticket holder since around 2005 — had a baseball hit the hood of his car during warm-ups on June 2 prior to the NCAA Athens Regional Final. However, he worries about not just cars getting hit, but also people. A baseball could only do so much damage to a car, but if the ball is hit hard enough it could threaten the safety of those around Foley Field.
The most jarring experience for Cooney came when a hard-hit ball fell a few yards away from hitting him. He thought he would’ve gone to the hospital if it was just a few feet over. Those types of moments hold weight for Cooney, especially because he has a 7-year old son who he loves bringing to baseball games.
Williams expects a solution to be reached sooner rather than later. Netting or bleachers out in left field could possibly put Cooney and other Foley Field frequents’ concerns to rest.