The 30 teams that comprise Major League Baseball (MLB) have expressed their willingness and commitment to expanding their stadiums’ protective netting.
This was announced by MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred earlier this week. The Commissioner said that protective nettings are expected to reach significantly beyond the teams’ dugouts in order to provide better protection to fans in attendance.
Manfred stated that the league will likely be unable to enact the changes to protective nettings this season, but emphasized that they will be in place come the 2020 season.
Manfred also disclosed that a number of teams have committed to going the extra mile with their nettings: at least seven MLB franchises told Manfred they planned to extend the netting to the foul poles, while 15 franchises planned to extend the netting to reach the elbow areas of the field.
The reason for the different tacks employed by the teams is that some stadiums may lack the structural features needed to extend netting to the foul poles, while other teams had already installed netting further than the dugout, and will be allowed to continue to do so.
Despite the unanimity of all 30 teams regarding the changes to protective netting, Manfred clarified that the MLB has not issued an official directive on any netting policies. The teams respectively chose to extend their stadium’s nettings after an informal discussion was held with league officials about safety issues related to netting.
Baseball Fan Injuries Not Uncommon
The change to the league’s protective netting policy comes on the heels of an accident that saw a 2-year old girl hospitalised in May after getting hit by a foul ball at Minute Maid Park in Houston. Her doctors reported that the hit resulted in subdural bleeding, seizure, brain edema, a fractured skull, and brain contusions. This was the second 2-year old girl to suffer injuries during an MLB game; the first was a young fan who was suffered a blow to the face from a 105mph line drive at Yankee Stadium two years ago.
NBC News conducted an investigation into injuries sustained by fans from errant baseballs. At least 808 injuries from 2012 to 2019 were tallied by the investigation, varying from concussions to irreversible blindness. Foul balls were the chief culprit for the fans’ injuries, but even home runs and batting practices were found to have caused some incidents over the years.