With MLB Opening Day less than two months away, Major League Baseball announces that all 30 teams will extend netting before the first pitch of the 2018 season.
Major League Baseball announced that all 30 teams will extend netting in their parks to provide more protected seating for their fans. The move comes after years of fans being injured during games by foul balls and broken bats, but it was really fueled by the horrific accident in 2017 at Yankees Stadium involving a young girl and a 105 MPH baseball that struck her in the face.
MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred made the announcement on Thursday morning, noting that “providing baseball fans with a variety of seating options when they come to the ballpark, including seats behind protective netting, is important.”
All 30 ballparks agreed to extend their netting to at least the far ends of both dugouts” prior to the start of the 2018 season in late March. Many parks are already in compliance, while others will have to implement some changes to meet this goal. Other parks are looking to extend the netting even more, given that broken bats can travel far beyond the dugouts and into the stands at frightening velocity.
Fan safety has always been a challenge at parks, largely because there are many fans who don’t want netting obstructing their views when they are paying so much money for premium seats. The question then becomes how to protect fans while still meeting expectations, and there are no easy answers. A line drive into third base line seating could be just as dangerous as one hit above the dugouts, so some parks have actively considered placing netting all the way down the field. Thursday’s news is a step in the right direction, but it’s by no means the end of the road.
The accident at Yankee Stadium certainly helped push this move forward. Todd Frazier, whose ball hit the little girl, pushed for the netting to be up as quickly as possible. Frazier and his fellow players were visibly shaken after the accident, watching helplessly while medics tended to the little girl who suffered a broken nose and other broken bones in her face.
Extending the netting in all parks is definitely a move in the right direction, and for some parks this is just the beginning. Seeing that the move was embraced by all 30 teams is encouraging, too, and will help set a positive tone for the 2018 season.