HOUSTON — A foul ball struck a young fan during a game between the Cubs and the Astros in Houston on Wednesday night.
The child was taken to a hospital after the incident but his or her condition was not immediately available.
Cubs outfielder Albert Almora Jr. hit a line drive in the fourth inning into the field-level stands down the third base line, where it hit the girl. He immediately put his hands on his head and took a couple of steps toward the seats. He then fell to his knees near home plate and was consoled by teammate Jason Heyward and manager Joe Maddon.
“Albert is an emotional young man with children, so that made it even more real to him,” Maddon said. “I understood exactly what he was going through right there.”
It took several minutes for Almora, who appeared to be crying, to compose himself and continue the at-bat. Players from both teams appeared shaken up by the scene.
Following the fourth inning, Almora, who still appeared upset, approached a security guard in the stands near where the girl was sitting and spoke to the guard before the two embraced.
“It’s good he let it out,” Heyward said of that moment. “I’m glad he did. That’s hard to deal with.”
Maddon said he was prepared to pull Almora from the game, but after his emotional moment with the security guard the center fielder said he was OK to keep playing.
“I just want him to understand that this is not under your control,” Maddon said. “There is nothing that you could have done about that differently, so please don’t blame yourself. Of course, it’s an awful moment, but this is a game and it’s out of your control, and you have to understand it.”
Almora still looked to be on the verge of tears after the game. He spoke haltingly as he described what happened and said he knew immediately as he looked into the stands that his ball had hit someone.
“Just the way life is,” he said. “As soon as I hit it, the first person I locked eyes on was her.”
The girl was picked up by a man who appeared to be with her and he dashed up the stairs not long after she was struck. A photo taken by The Associated Press showed the girl apparently conscious and crying as she was whisked away and nearby fans looked on.
The Houston Astros confirmed the incident occurred at its Minute Maid Park, but declined to provide further information.
“We are not able to disclose any further details at this time. The Astros send our thoughts and prayers to the entire family,” the team said in a statement.
Almora said he received “unofficial updates” on her condition but he was advised not to share any details.
“Right now I’m just praying and I’m speechless,” he said. “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.”
Last year, Major League Baseball announced that it will put protective netting at all 30 ballparks as part of an effort to improve and ensure the safety of its fans.