Get Well Soon, Luke Holko

As a father, certain stories strike a deeper chord with me than others.  The one I just read, first from the Associated Press and then from TribToday.com, about Luke Holko – that one hit me harder than most.

Luke is a four-year-old baseball fan from Ohio.  On Wednesday, he was sitting with his parents in the front row at a Mahoning Valley Scrappers game when a foul ball off the bat of Scrappers first baseman Ben Carlson flew into the stands and struck him in the head.  The emergency medical response was exceptionally fast, but damage was already done: Luke’s skull fractured and the bone pressed into his brain, requiring surgery and an agonizing five-day wait for swelling to decrease enough to allow doctors to further evaluate his condition.

I remember when I worked for the Nashua Pride, an opposing player once came up to me and asked for a favor.

“My wife and son are here,” he said, gesturing to them in the stands, which at Holman Stadium sit right on top of the field (“Not a bad seat in the house!” we used to boast to people who called to order tickets).  His boy wasn’t very old, maybe four or five, and I think his wife might have been pregnant.  “Their seats are out in the open.  Do you think you can get them moved behind the screen?”  He knew the inherent danger that came from sitting so close to the field at a professional baseball game.  (Unfortunately, we had a sellout that day and I wasn’t able to get the seats moved.  Because I had no concept at the time of his concern, I took it in stride.  Boy, do I feel different now.)

That request makes me wonder how long it will be before minor league baseball takes steps to protect its youngest fans, because signs that warn of projectiles flying into the stands (thus absolving the team’s themselves of liability) are clearly not enough.

One solution that I’ve heard in the past is to extend the screen behind home plate down the base lines, at least past the dugouts.  I think this is a great idea.  Fans would surely protest at first – my friend Billy, for example, always worries about sitting behind home plate because he thinks he won’t be able to see the ball as well – but the netting that is currently in place barely impedes the view of the game.  Adding it further down the lines would only help protect fans, especially children, who can’t possibly react quickly enough on sharp line drives into the seats close to the field.

“How will we catch foul balls?” you might say.  “Who cares about foul balls, if fans are safer?” I might counter.

Barring such a change, I hope parents just make smart decisions about bringing their children to games.  When my son was really little, we used to bring him to games, letting him sit in seats that were way too exposed while we paid way too little attention to the action on the field.  This year, I didn’t take him to the ballpark at all, and probably won’t until he’s a few years older.

Even then, our seats will be either behind the plate or so far from the batter that we’ll have ample time to react if a foul ball comes close.  The AP noted in its story that, “During a news conference Friday, the boy’s mother, Nicole Holko of North Bloomfield, said her son loves baseball and the accident won’t stop the family from attending games.”  I hope Luke recovers fully, I hope his family does get back out to the ballpark, and I hope they take the same precautions that I would.

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5 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by nicole holko on September 7, 2009 at 10:49 am

    Thank you so much for writing this. We did take all those precautions that all people who love baseball take. We usually never get seats that close…so Luke was excited to be able to see things up close and personal…even a few players stood right next to him to sign a girls glove. And he saw Scrappy up close. Usually, Luke liked to go over to the kids area and play. We were there twice that night and played awhile, but that night the bouncy house wasnt there and he got bored quicker and asked to go back to our seats to watch. We actually were getting ready to leave when it happened. We do still want luke to enjoy the sport and go to games, but we will NEVER sit that close again…and we intend to be advocates for getting more netting and barriers to protect the fans….no matter what we have to do. Children love and thrive on those kinds of experiences and it helps them grow and learn and we shouldnt have to deprive them of those joys to protect them!! Luke is getting a little better everyday and we just ask for prayers! They are working and we need them to continue to lift Luke up! Thank you so much. Sincerely Nicole Holko

    Reply

  2. Posted by Tracy Straface on September 23, 2009 at 7:57 pm

    Nicole I just want you to know that Luke , you, Chad and your family are in my prayers daily and I have put all of you on numerous prayer lists. I too believe that more efforts should be made to have netting and barriers at most sporting events. God Bless you and your family!!!!

    Reply

  3. Posted by ronnie rozier on October 1, 2009 at 11:31 pm

    Nicole,

    just ran across this story browsing the internet and want you to know your family and Luke are in my prayers. I’m 30 years old and lying next to me is my 5 month little boy (first child). I cannot begin to understand the pain and the uncertainty but i now realize how special the gift of a child is. You hang in there, be strong for Luke, and never give up. He will pull through this, because I see all the support that little man has on his team. when you feel like you need a shoulder to cry on, find on and cry, its ok. it a cry of love for Luke. I wish you all the best and if you have a mailing list please add me to it. This story of love and family has touched me. GOD, please watch over this sweet kid and please GOD give this family strength,hope, and love. And most of all GOD watch after Luke.

    God Bless

    Ronnie Rozier
    Greenwood, Mississippi
    rrozier@glh.org

    Reply

  4. God bless you and yours.

    JoJo

    Reply

  5. Posted by Marg Diggins on November 18, 2012 at 4:47 pm

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