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Bel Air Girl Severely Injured at Orioles Game: 'Most Helpless Feeling You Will Ever Have'

A 10-year-old girl from Bel Air was seriously injured after she was hit in the face with a ball during batting practice at an Orioles game.

Jennifer Dempsey, 10, is recovering after being hit in the face with a baseball at Camden Yards. (Courtesy Photo: Joseph Kraft)
Jennifer Dempsey, 10, is recovering after being hit in the face with a baseball at Camden Yards. (Courtesy Photo: Joseph Kraft)

When Joseph Kraft took his 10-year-old daughter to the Orioles game Friday night at Camden Yards, he expected a fun night out with his family, like he has had hundreds of times before.

Instead, he watched a nightmare unfold in front of his eyes, after his daughter was hit in the face with a baseball during batting practice.

Four days later, Jennifer Dempsey has undergone a grueling nine-hour surgery to repair a fractured skull, broken cheekbones, and crushed septum, among other injuries.

“To not be able to react fast enough, and seeing your child like that, is something I would not wish on anybody,” Kraft, a Bel Air resident said. “It is the most helpless feeling you will ever have. “

Jennifer is currently recovering at Johns Hopkins Pediatric Center. Kraft said she is awake and alert, but has an extremely long road to recovery ahead of her, and will most likely need medical care for the rest of her life.

While Kraft and his wife help their daughter recover, he wants parents to know just how quickly a night at the ballpark can go wrong.

When Jennifer was hit, while standing in the flag court before the park opened, Kraft said there were four adults standing right by, and all they could do was take one step—and then it was over.

“If one injury can be prevented from this whole incident, and one person can avoid what we just went though these past couple days it's worthwhile to tell people,” Kraft said. “No one realizes at 390 feet away how fast that ball is moving and how much damage it can do.” 

During surgery, Kraft said Jennifer had 15 titanium plates inserted into her face.  She can’t wear a hat, a helmet or ride a bike for the rest of her life, because she can’t do anything to cause the plates to shift.

Kraft said she will miss at least a month of school at Fountain Green Elementary, and will need to see someone from the Traumatic Brain Injury Clinic at Kennedy Kreiger once they leave the hospital. 

“It’s the furthest thing from your mind when you’re out for a good day at the park—that it could turn into a lifetime of needing medical care,” Kraft said.

When Jennifer was hit, Kraft said they were two minutes away from the park opening. An Oakland Athletics player was taking batting practice at the time. Kraft said his family has heard from both the Orioles and the A's since the incident.

"We have been in touch with the family. And we wish Jennifer the best and a very quick recovery," said Monica Barlow, director of public relations for the Orioles.

Kraft said he and his family are lifelong Orioles fans. They have collections in their home dating back to 1914. They have been to the ballpark “hundreds of times.” But they never saw this coming. 

“It’s been a very, very eye opening experience,” Kraft said. “Every one of us that were there is feeling the guilt of we didn’t do enough. It’s definitely something you don’t want to see your child go through."

Tricia G August 27, 2013 at 07:11 PM
My heart breaks for everyone in this family. Prayers sent.
SLBaldridge August 27, 2013 at 07:23 PM
My heart hurts for this family and this poor child...
PurpleNeons August 27, 2013 at 09:15 PM
The Kraft family will be in our prayers and thoughts tonight.
Karlea Ann DeVries August 28, 2013 at 09:29 AM
Oh, my I will be THINKING BUT MOSTLY PRAYING FOR THIS YOUNG LADY and her FAMILY!!!! PRAYING for a SPEEDY and FULL RECOVERY!!!!!!!
Jon August 28, 2013 at 10:04 AM
My family goes to a lot of Ironbirds games, and frankly I am always nervous the entire time and watching the game for foul balls. My thoughts go out to this girl and her family as well as yours Mrs Edrington.
Ben Woods August 28, 2013 at 10:13 AM
Something is missing from this story. Was she hit while standing in the right-field platform? If the park was closed, she couldn't have been standing close enough to the field to be hit. And if she were standing in the right-field platform, then it was a homerun ball, which everyone should have seen coming (assuming people were watching batting practice).
Doug K August 28, 2013 at 11:45 AM
@Ben Woods -- if you've been out on Eutaw Street between the warehouse and the flag court, you will see all of those bronze markers where home runs have landed on the fly. And those are just game-time home runs, not batting practice. If not frequent, it's at least a regular occurrence that hit balls will land on Eutaw Street -- where you certainly aren't watching batting practice.
Jerry Glucksman August 28, 2013 at 02:25 PM
People don't realize how dangerous it can be going to a baseball game or other sports like Hockey or car races it may not happen often but if your in the wrong place at the wrong time it could be deadly.
Susan August 28, 2013 at 03:14 PM
While I'm inclined to think there may be more to this story, this isn't the first time someone has been hurt. Why aren't there more safety regulations?
Jon August 28, 2013 at 03:22 PM
There are plenty of signs telling attendees to be careful - there doesn't need to be additional regulations. This was a tragic accident but we don't need to legislate every single way that folks can get hurt.
Doug K August 28, 2013 at 03:57 PM
Is merely throwing up a sign that says "Watch out for Batted Balls" adequate? Or is it negligent for not doing more to protect spectators who cannot see what is happening on the field? The courts will probably sort that one out.
Ellen Edrington August 28, 2013 at 04:00 PM
No one ever thinks something like this will ever happen to them. Yes, there are signs posted around the ballpark, warning of the dangers and telling people to watch for foul balls, etc. I don't see what regulations could possibly be put in place to prevent the random accidents that do happen. These things happen in a split second. In our situation there was nothing we could have done to avoid my husband's accident.
Sarah August 28, 2013 at 07:15 PM
I Am so sorry to hear about Jennifer.. especially, as she was a student of min, and my family was at the game and knew nothing about this tragic accident. My thoughts and prayers go out to her and the family, and I look forward to her return as school.
Sarah August 28, 2013 at 07:21 PM
My family and I attended the game on Friday night and I just learned of this horrific accident through a FG post... Jennifer was a student of mine and I look forward to her return to school. My prayers are with Jennifer and your family.
Otto Schmidlap August 28, 2013 at 07:25 PM
What a terribly unfortunate incident. Thankfully top medical facilities are nearby. We need to pray for Jennifer's recovery. As an aside, Doug K. is in line for the Weenie Of The Week Award. Hey Dougieboy, General Patton's grandson just called, he said to turn in your Man Card immediately or else he be lookin' you up.
Frank James August 28, 2013 at 09:10 PM
As a parent, father of two girls and one boy, I can imagine the horror of not being able to prevent that serious accident. I'm praying for Jennifer and her family. May God bless and heal her.
BosoxBrent August 28, 2013 at 09:32 PM
Hope you feel better soon Jennifer. We are all pulling for you to have a speedy recovery.
NWBL August 29, 2013 at 11:42 AM
Whenever a liner (or even a pop-up) comes toward my vicinity, I duck and cover my head. People think I'm silly but I was once hurt in the thigh at my son's little league game and I saw a woman get hit in the chest at a major league spring training game--she collapsed. Poor Jennifer to get hit so badly. Let's hope for the best possible outcome for her, terrible accident.
Honeygo Hal August 29, 2013 at 03:36 PM
Allow me to fill in some of those blanks, Ben Woods. The Eutaw St. gates open at 5:00 (for a normal night game), but the seating bowl is closed to all but season ticket holders until 5:30 (when the remainder of the gates open.) During that time ticketholders are welcome to wait in places like the area above the bullpen as well as on the flag court. Some are more interested in getting into the seating bowl than watching the visiting team's BP. This was a highly unusual, and thankfully rare incident. I wish all the best to Jennifer and her family.
Dorinda Pla Hayes August 29, 2013 at 05:25 PM
Maybe they could reduce the players salaries some and make the parks safer, because no one should have to go through this.
Sarah August 29, 2013 at 09:30 PM
This is so sad
Sarah August 29, 2013 at 09:31 PM
I know Jenny I will miss you and pray for you to recover
ROBERT SCHROEDER September 02, 2013 at 09:17 AM
They are in my prayers as well & I pray that she get better again, more the the doctors hope, Jesus will heal here through man. It is sad, but things do happen. I bet the O's all went to the hospital to visit her & they might hold a game just for her to raise money? The o's are also in my prayers as they are hurting too. Sarah, can you show or tell her she is in our prayers + give us updates?
Rascal Cat September 06, 2013 at 09:40 PM
So where was Dad when this happened? And what was Dad doing when this happened? Dad definitely was not protecting his daughter. It's not like they were ninety feet from home plate. Plenty of time to react if Dad was paying attention.
Matt Kraft September 07, 2013 at 07:45 AM
Rascal Cat, if you've ever been to Camden Yards, you would see everyone walking Eutaw Street before the game as we were. No one watches batting practice from 400 feet away where we cannot see. I think it's a miracle my niece turned her head at the last moment before it hit her. I am offended that you have these choice words for my brother in such a tough time for all of us. It's sad people like you who can read these types of articles and find something negative to say.
Ellen Edrington September 07, 2013 at 09:47 AM
Rascal Cat, Mr. Kraft took the high road in responding to your insulting message. You should be ashamed of your comment about the accident. Accidents like these happen so quickly and believe me, when a ball is hurling through the air at 100 miles an hour you barely have time to react. As I said in an earlier post, I have been through a similar ordeal and there is little you can do to avoid a tragedy like this. Instead of trying to blame the father for something that was not his fault and post hurtful, insulting comments, why don't you use your energy to say a prayer for this little girl and her family. It would be a much better and kinder use of your time.
Sarah September 09, 2013 at 08:35 PM
FYI- My understanding is that she is getting better every day and we look forward to seeing her soon.
ROBERT SCHROEDER September 09, 2013 at 09:17 PM
Thank you Jesus!
Rascal Cat September 12, 2013 at 06:00 PM
Being on the Flag Court is clearly not the same as sitting near the dugout for example. There is plenty of time to react and the ball is not travelling at 100 miles per hour when the ball has traveled 400 feet. A horrible thing happened but if Dad was paying attention he would have had plenty of time to react. Attack me all you want but again I will ask the question. What was Dad doing? I know when I am there with my child at that part of Eutaw Street I read the warning signs and I am very aware balls come flying out there.
Dr. Dave January 24, 2014 at 08:14 AM
Rascal Cal, then you're just the perfect father, aren't you? I hope something like this never happens when your daughter is in the same spot as Jennifer was, because you couldn't react any faster than her father did, no matter what you think now. You're just second-guessing a situation that happened while you weren't there. You can't know how fast you would have reacted because you didn't see the situation. You're just being obnoxious and rude to Jennifer's father by suggesting you know what he should have been able to do. Maybe he should have just never taken her to the ballgame - that would have protected her. Or maybe he should have just surrounded her the entire time they were within 450 feet of home plate during batting practice. Or made her wear a full face helmet. But just walking or standing around the area, there's no way to react to a ball that quickly unless you're focused solely on batting practice and the flight of every ball rather than Boog's BBQ or getting a hot dog or looking at souvenirs. So don't pretend like you're a superhero and Jennifer's father is some kind of failure for not protecting his child. He said every adult around her took a step when they saw what was coming, but they were all too late to do anything about it. He feels bad enough that his daughter got hurt and he couldn't protect her. He doesn't need someone like you talking smack about how you could have done so much better, especially when you couldn't have.

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