'The first person I locked eyes on was her': Almora reacts after child hit by foul ball

By Cory McCord - Digital News Editor, Daniela Sternitzky-Di Napoli - Digital News Editor, Cathy Hernandez - Reporter, AP Author

HOUSTON - A young girl was struck by a foul ball at Minute Maid Park Wednesday.

During the fourth inning of the Astros-Cubs game, a foul ball hit by Chicago outfielder Albert Almora Jr. went screaming over the visitor's dugout past the protective netting, striking the child.

“I just saw this rocket of a ball just coming at us and it was very little time to react,” said Heather Doughty, who was seated two rows away from the girl. “All you heard was the mother screaming, she and the other lady with them, they were just screaming, and, of course, then they all took off running upstairs.”

Almora was visibly shaken up after the incident. He crouched to his knees and held his head in his hands. His teammate Jason Heyward and manager Joe Maddon came onto the field to console him. 

"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."

Heywood said he was glad Almora let out his emotions.

"It's good he let it out," Heyward said. "I'm glad he did. That's hard to deal with."

PHOTOS: Child struck by foul ball at Astros-Cubs game on May 29, 2019

In between innings, Almora was seen hugging a security guard with his face in his glove.

"(It’s) just the way life is," Almora said. "As soon as I hit it, the first person I locked eyes on was her. Right now I'm just praying and I'm speechless. I'm at a loss of words, being a father, two boys ... 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."

After the incident, Almora is calling for change saying, "Right now obviously I want to put a net around the whole stadium.”

Heyward agreed with Almora's sentiment.

“People don't realize how hard it is to react to a baseball,” Heyward said. “We go through that. I know they don't get it, but it's that hard to react to it. So it would help people. But we know we can't control it. Stadiums know they can't necessarily control how fast the game is. But if there's anything they can do, I guess that would be it. I'm not the stadium police, but I don't know any other way to stop that from happening."

Maddon said he understood what Almora was going through and was prepared to pull him from the game.

"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."

The child received treatment at the stadium and was taken to a hospital as a precaution.

She was alert and conscious, according to reports.

The Astros issued the following statement on the incident:

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

Major League Baseball sent a statement Thursday that read:

"The events at last night’s game were extremely upsetting.  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."

Copyright 2019 by KPRC Click2Houston. The Associated Press contributed to this report. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.