Cubs

Albert Almora Jr. on foul ball incident in Houston: 'I hope this never happens again'

Albert Almora Jr. on foul ball incident in Houston: 'I hope this never happens again'

ST. LOUIS - The day after his foul ball line drive hit a young girl in the stands in Houston, Albert Almora Jr. didn't even get out of bed.

The Cubs had the day off after traveling to St. Louis following the conclusion of their series with the Astros Wednesday night.

Almora said he woke up to an avalanche of messages from family and friends Thursday morning lending their support. He has reached out to the family of the young fan, but they have asked for privacy on her condition.

In the two days that have followed since the incident, the conversation on protective netting around the ballpark has reached its crescendo, with many speaking out about the need to protect fans at all costs.

"I hope this never happens again, so whatever the league has to do to make that happen," Almora said as he stood at his locker in the visiting dugout at Busch Stadium. "I don't think any kid that goes to a baseball game with their parents or whoever should worry about making it out unhealthy or whatever the case may be. I don't think that should ever cross their mind. 

"Whatever the league needs to do to do that, that should be in place."

Almora isn't alone in that thought and maybe this incident will inspire some action to extend the netting beyond where it is now, which is roughly through the end of the dugout on either foul line at most MLB stadiums.

Even that has been a major improvement in recent years after debate about whether the netting affects fans' experience watching the game. But the current situation is not enough to protect children and families from foul balls whistling into the stands at 90 or 100 mph, as my colleague Doug Glanville so aptly broke down about his own firsthand experience bringing his kids to games.

"A couple years ago, there was very minimal [netting] and now there's a lot more than there had been and there's gonna be more than that," Joe Maddon said Friday. "Just goes way back. I've seen a kid at Quad Cities — when I was catching — sitting on a stoop outside the dugout probably no more than 15-20 feet to the left of home plate — a foul ball hits the kid right in the face.

"I mean, there were not nets at all back then, except for directly behind home plate. So where we're at right now is a pretty significant increase since then and it's gonna be even more than that, for sure. Typically, it always takes something to happen before people react and that's just the way we can react — not just in baseball, but as humans in general."

Maybe this situation will be the impetus behind more change. It's only been two days, but it sure seems like that's the direction it's moving. 

As for Almora, it was amazing he even moved forward and continued playing that game Wednesday night after how broken up he was. But he cited the support from his teammates and Cubs family as a major reason why and felt like he was in a good state of mind before Friday's game. The off-day probably helped give him time to process everything, too.

"[The support] has been nothing but positive," Almora said. "But at the same time, it's not about me. It's about hopefully everything's OK with the family. But yeah, there's really not much else I can say. I've been blessed with the people around me in this situation. As tough as it's been, it has made me a better person, I think, and it has opened my eyes to other things.

"I don't know. I never want it to happen again. I wish it wouldn't have happened, but you take it in stride and move forward and hopefully all is well and she's gonna make a full recovery, God willing. But it's something I'll never forget for the rest of my life. 

"I'm not saying I'm gonna try to turn it into a positive, but right now, all I've seen, all I've experienced is love and people that care and that means a lot. That means the world to me."

Basket Slam: Wrigley's quirks come to Cubs' aid in walk-off win

Basket Slam: Wrigley's quirks come to Cubs' aid in walk-off win

The Wrigley Field basket has played a huge role in this week's Cubs-Reds series.

In Monday night's game, Cincinnati catcher Curt Casali hit a game-tying homer into the basket in the seventh inning of a game the Cubs went on to lose.

But the basket giveth and the basket also taketh away.

Tuesday night, it was Kyle Schwarber and the Cubs who were singing the praises of one of the strangest ballpark quirks in baseball.

Schwarber connected on a walk-off homer in the bottom of the 10th inning off Reds closer Raisel Iglesias, hitting a fly ball through the impossibly-humid air and into the basket in left-centerfield for a 4-3 Cubs win.

"Whoever thought about that basket — whenever that occurred — tell them, 'thank you,'" Joe Maddon said. "Although it did work against us [Monday]. When it works for you, it's awesome."

Schwarber has stood under the left-field basket many times with his back against the wall, thinking he might be able to make a play on a high fly ball only to see it settle into the wickets and turn into a chance for a Bleacher Bum to show off their arm. 

But is he a huge fan of the basket now that it worked in his favor?

"I guess so," Schwarber laughed. "Yesterday, it cost us, but today, it helped us out. It's just the factor of Wrigley Field. Happy it worked out today."

It was Schwarber's first career walk off RBI of any kind.

It was the Cubs' fourth walk-off homer of the season, but their first since May 11 when Willson Contreras called "game" on the Milwaukee Brewers. 

The Cubs are now 4-1 since the All-Star Break and hold a 2.5-game lead in the division.

Baseball Night in Chicago Podcast: Big changes to the Cubs roster

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USA TODAY

Baseball Night in Chicago Podcast: Big changes to the Cubs roster

Doug Glanville and Ozzie Guillen join Leila Rahimi on Baseball Night in Chicago to discuss all things baseball.

The talk about the trade that sent Cubs pitcher Mike Montgomery to the Royals in exchange for Martin Maldonado, Willson Contreras' injury that sent him to the injured list and an update on the White Sox roster moves and rebuild status.

Listen to the full episode here or via the embedded player below: