Yesterday, the San Diego Padres, Cincinnati Reds, and Seattle Mariners announced plans to extend the protective netting at their home ballparks, in hopes of keeping fans sitting along the first- and third-base lines safe from the threat of foul balls and broken bats. The decision comes after Wednesday’s incident at a Yankees game, where a young girl was hospitalized after getting was hit in the face by a 105 mph foul ball.
Fan safety has long been a problem for baseball, but the league has been slow to enforce any real changes to make sure fans aren’t in the path of danger. After the 2015 season, MLB recommended that teams expand their netting, which already guards fans sitting behind home plate, down the first and third base lines. This recommendation, however, was optional and before this week’s accident, only eight of the 30 MLB teams had chosen to expand their stadium’s protective netting, leaving the majority of fans at risk for getting smacked by a ball traveling over 100 miles per hour.
After the incident at Yankee Stadium, however, players and fans noted that the entire situation could have been avoided if MLB stadiums extended the netting. The Padres, Reds, and Mariners all announced via social media that they will be adding extra netting to that will reach the ends of both dugouts.
In an effort to better protect our fans, we will be extending the netting at @SafecoField.
Not all teams were as moved, however. The Colorado Rockies would not commit to expanded netting, the organization said in a statement on Twitter. However, the organization did say it planned to figure out a long-term solution during the offseason. Hopefully, the league comes to its senses and finally starts taking the safety of its fans seriously.
Here is the Colorado Rockies statement regarding expanded netting at Coors Field. pic.twitter.com/mJAO48BlPJ
— Colorado Rockies (@Rockies) September 21, 2017
Despite nearly universal support from fans, analysts, and players, the league still wants teams to decide for themselves whether or not they want extended netting at their ballpark. MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred said that expanding safety netting was an “ongoing discussion,” once again citing the fact that “every stadium is different.”
Now, some fans opposed to protective netting say it lowers visibility, thus ruining the appeal of the coveted seats along the baselines. Others say that any injuries that occur to kids in the stands are the fault of parents who aren’t paying close enough attention. But when a 105 mph ball is hit towards you, it’s nearly impossible to react in time. Let’s hope it doesn’t take another incident to inspire stadiums to install netting.