The foul ball netting at MLB parks is a topic that unfortunately tends to arise only after something really bad happens.
It sadly came up a few times last year, including after a young girl suffered serious injuries at Yankee Stadium:
Obviously Dozier’s first suggestion (no children near the field) isn’t going (no children near the field to work, but the great news is that his second suggestion makes way too much sense to not happen. Is it really, honestly going to take a a fan (of any age) dying in the stadium for this to happen? That’s what it took for hockey, of course, but baseball already had that example and precedent. Refusing to do it just because it hasn’t happened yet just isn’t good enough. Balls are hit harder than ever now, as you may have noticed, and teams cram more and more seats as close to the field as possible.
The league encourages teams to extend netting, but leaves it up to each team as to how they handle it.
That’s not good enough anymore.
And it wasn’t, thankfully; MLB announced that all 30 teams will have nets extending further down the foul lines.
The Arizona Diamondbacks and the Tampa Bay Rays announced on Wednesday they would extend the protective netting behind the dugouts in their ballparks in time for opening day, meaning all 30 teams have decided to exceed the recommendations for enhanced safety issued by Commissioner Rob Manfred in December 2015.
The announcement came a day before Manfred was expected to issue a mandate at baseball’s quarterly owners meetings in Los Angeles that all teams must extend their netting to at least the far end of the dugouts by the beginning of the coming season.
“Providing baseball fans with a variety of seating options when they come to the ballpark, including seats behind protective netting, is important,” Manfred said in a statement. “Major League Clubs are constantly evaluating the coverage and design of their ballpark netting and I am pleased that they are providing fans an increased inventory of protected seats.”
Here’s the Diamondbacks announcement:
— Arizona Diamondbacks (@Dbacks) January 31, 2018
This is obviously good; major league players sitting in the dugout have to scramble to get out of the way, and they’re world-class athletes without any distractions to contend with. A few teams are actually doing more than just extending past the dugout, including both New York teams:
In January, the Yankees announced they would extend the protective netting beyond the league’s recommendation and into the outfield.
During the 2017 All-Star break, the Mets extended the netting at Citi Field down both foul lines.
That’s probably where we should be going, to be honest, whether it be altruistic or to avoid legal liability; the Cubs are being sued by a man who was severely injured after being struck during a game last year.
Schaumburg man who had his nose and six bones around his left eye broken by foul ball at Wrigley Field sues Cubs, Major League Baseball for lack of protective netting https://t.co/cpgKQbLQ3T pic.twitter.com/noWXgQb3H0
— Chicago Tribune (@chicagotribune) October 9, 2017
There’s going to be a certain segment of sports fan (and pundit) that pushes back on this, of course. Their arguments will focus on paying attention if you’re going to be at the game, and taking some personal responsibility, and why should their view be obstructed at all if they’re going to pay that kind of money, etc.
Don’t listen to those people. Someone would have died, and that’s not worth it.