Child struck by line drive; Cubs' Almora in tears

HOUSTON -- A young fan at Wednesday night's game between the Cubs and Astros was struck by an Albert Almora Jr. foul ball and taken to the hospital, shaking up the Chicago center fielder and renewing calls for additional protective netting at major league ballparks.

Almora hit a fourth-inning line drive into the stands down the third-base line, where it struck the girl. She was picked up by a man who appeared to be with her, and he dashed up the stairs with the child at Minute Maid Park.

"The young fan that was struck by a foul ball during tonight's game was taken to the hospital," the Astros said in a statement. "We are not able to disclose any further details at this time. The Astros send our thoughts and prayers to the entire family."

A photo taken by The Associated Press showed the girl conscious and crying as she was whisked away. Sources told ESPN's Jesse Rogers that the initial report on the girl's condition was positive.

Almora immediately put his hands on his head and took a couple of steps toward the stands after the girl was struck. He then fell to his knees near the plate and was consoled by teammate Jason Heyward and manager Joe Maddon.

"I just wanted him to understand, 'This is not under your control. There's nothing you could've done about that differently, so please don't blame yourself,'" Maddon said after the game. "Of course, it's an awful moment, but it's a game and this is out of your control and you just have to understand that part of it.

"Listen, I have kids, grandkids. It's a real awful moment for a player to go through something like that."

It took several minutes for Almora, who appeared to be crying, to compose himself and continue the at-bat, and players from both teams also appeared shaken up by the scene.

"I had to try to keep my composure during that at-bat, but when that half-inning was over, I just couldn't hold it anymore," Almora told reporters after the game.

After 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 and a tearful Almora went back to the dugout. He said he was updated on the girl's condition.

"Unofficial things," Almora said of what the two shared. "I wish I could say more."

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.''

Almora said he hopes to form a relationship with the girl and her family.

"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.''

Like all major league stadiums, Minute Maid Park has netting to protect fans from foul balls. But on the third-base side in Houston, it extends only to the end of the visiting team's dugout. The girl was sitting in what looked to be the third or fourth row about 10 feet past where the netting ends.

Following recommendations from Major League Baseball, by the start of the 2018 season all 30 big league teams had expanded their protective netting to at least the far ends of the dugouts after several fans were injured by foul balls in 2017.

"The events at last night's game were extremely upsetting," MLB said in a statement Thursday. "We send our best wishes to the child and family involved. Clubs have significantly expanded netting and their inventory of protected seats in recent years. With last night's event in mind, we will continue our efforts on this important issue."

At Yankee Stadium in May 2017, a boy was struck in the head by a portion of Chris Carter's broken bat. A fan sitting beyond the first-base dugout was hit by a 105 mph foul ball off the bat of Aaron Judge in July of that year. And in September, a young girl was injured by another 105 mph foul ball off the bat of Todd Frazier and was hospitalized. Linda Goldbloom, sitting in a loge area at Dodger Stadium, was hit in the head by a foul ball during the ninth inning of a game on Aug. 25, 2018. Four days later, she died.

Following Wednesday's game in Houston, Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant reiterated his call for Major League Baseball to extend the netting around the field of play to better protect fans.

"There's a lot of kids coming to the games -- young kids who want to watch us play -- and the balls come in hard," Bryant told ESPN's Jeff Passan. "I mean, the speed of the game is quick, and I think any safety measure we can take to, you know, make sure that the fans are safe, we should do it."

ESPN's Jesse Rogers and The Associated Press contributed to this report.