The Youker Files: 4th of July Fireworks Safety Tips

Written exclusively for Fenway Pastoral by Red Sox first baseman/third baseman Kevin Youkilis

Setting off fireworks is a part of Americana that I’ve always truly enjoyed. The anticipation of a lit fuse, the loud explosions, the high-pitched whistle of a fiery projectile shooting into the evening air en route to illuminating the sky with smokey color. I take a childish delight in the whole scene.

We were lucky enough to have this past Memorial Day off this year–the Monday breaking up our homestand against the Royals and Athletics. So I figured I’d take advantage of this blessing from the scheduling Gods and have a barbecue at my home in a nearby Boston suburb.

Honestly, what BBQ is complete without fireworks? To honor our veterans, I decided to have a buddy go up north to the New Hampshire border and purchase a very large amount of explosives to set off in my backyard once dusk rolled in.

I’ve gotta say, the idea seemed pretty flawless at the time. But I did learn some valuable lessons about the proper usage of fireworks that I hope everyone will keep in mind this weekend as we celebrate the Independence Day of our great nation.

Rule 1: Stay back
I guess we can all learn something from Dustin Pedroia, who got his own foot a bit too close to his own Laser Show for his own good out in San Francisco. In all seriousness, once a firework is lit in your vicinity, get out of the way immediately. Fuses require differing lengths of time to burn through and just because your M-80 doesn’t fire out of its launch pad immediately doesn’t mean it’s a good idea to get a closer look to see what’s going on.

Rule 2: Watch your aim
Don’t point your fireworks at other people. Don’t point your fireworks at other houses. Don’t point your fireworks in any direction which might have flammable substances or wooded areas. This might seem like a no-brainer to most people. But I’ve actually been hit in the head by several ill-fated bottle rockets. Those things can come at you quicker than any line drive down the third base line and they can leave more permanent marks than just a baseball-sized bruise.

Rule 3: Wear protective armor
I know, I know. You probably think you’ll look ridiculous wearing a helmet, safety goggles and a non-combustible jumpsuit, but just pretend you’re stepping into the batter’s box against Joba Chamberlain after he’s been drinking heavily. Do you really want to risk a fast-moving projectile speeding at your head so quickly that you only have a split-second to react?

Rule 4: Be patient
I haven’t always exhibited the same amount of patience in my fireworks escapades as I usually do during at-bats. I like buying a lot of different types of fireworks, loading my mortar up with several explosives and setting them off at the same time. But the risks of haywire aren’t always worth the reward. Rather than trying to impress your barbecue guests by lighting 10 projectiles at the same time, set off your M-80s and Roman candles one after another and just enjoy the experience. It’s pretty embarrassing when all your friends leave your house early because you thought it would be cool to try to light your whole arsenal with a blowtorch.

Well, I hope these safety tips are helpful. An amateur fireworks show can be one of the most absolutely awesome forms of entertainment, but unlike baseball, injuries can only be avoided by using common sense. Stay safe on the Fourth, everybody.

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