Pirates defend disabled seating after woman struck by ball

Friday, May 17, 2002

PITTSBURGH -- The Pittsburgh Pirates plan no changes to seating for people with disabilities after a woman in a wheelchair was hit in the head by a home run.

The woman, seated behind a protective railing in right field, was struck by Arizona Diamondback Steve Finley's homer in the sixth inning Wednesday night. Several fans rushed to assist the woman, who was not identified.

She received several stitches in the head at a local hospital but otherwise was not seriously injured. The Pirates said Thursday that the woman was recovering at home.

The Pirates said the accident was unfortunate, but not uncommon, and defended fan safety at PNC Park, which opened last year.

Designers went beyond the requirements under the federal Americans with Disabilities Act and won an award from the United Cerebral Palsy Association, Pirates spokeswoman Patty Paytas said.

"I believe we have a very safe environment at PNC Park. We have not had any difficulties in particular with things like this," Paytas said. "We are more than comfortable with the seating for our guests with disabilities. ...

"The purpose of our seating plan is that people with disabilities are included. We don't rope off a section and say 'This is where you have to be.' You can go anywhere you want in this park."

Fan safety has come under increased scrutiny since 13-year-old Brittanie Cecil died two days after she was hit in the head by a puck at a Columbus Blue Jackets game in March.

Some, including Finley, criticized the Pirates for placing wheelchair seating in a power alley, a name given to areas of the park where hitters tend to hit home runs. Finley's homer came one batter after Luis Gonzalez's two-run shot landed only a few feet away from the woman in the right-field stands.

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