With spring training fast approaching, Major League Baseball teams are quickly finalizing their plans to extend the protective netting down the foul lines at their respective stadiums.
Just within the last two weeks, the Los Angeles Angels, Toronto Blue Jays, Baltimore Orioles, Miami Marlins and Chicago White Sox have joined the ranks of teams committed to adding more netting ahead of the 2018 season. That brings the total to 27 teams who are officially on board, with the Arizona Diamondbacks, Oakland Athleticsand Tampa Bay Rays as the only remaining holdouts.
That’s expected to change soon though. According to Forbes’ baseball man Maury Brown, it wouldn’t be a surprise if all three teams announced their intentions to add expanded netting in the coming week. That means it’s likely that all 30 teams will have added netting in some capacity between 2015 and the start of the 2018 season.
The protective netting issue has been a major topic of discussion over the last few years due to a rash of fan injuries sustained when foul balls and pieces of broken bats have flown into the stands. Initially, teams were slow to address the issue. Only about a dozen teams had added more netting as of last September. But that quickly changed when a young girl was carried out of Yankee Stadium after being hit in the face by a Todd Frazier foul ball on Sept. 20.
The young fan suffered a broken nose and other facial fractures that led to impaired vision. The baseball was reportedly traveling 105 mph off of Frazier’s bat.
That unfortunate incident led MLB to encourage more teams to add expanded netting for the 2018 season. Within days, at least six more teams announced their intentions to extend netting for this season. That number has continued growing in the months since, to the point where it will soon be universal.
Any hesitation to extend the netting has been largely based around what it would cost teams from a financial standpoint and also in terms of fan satisfaction. Yes, even after these incidents there are still fans calling these incidents flukes while complaining about the netting impacting their view of the game.
Their argument is that fans should be more aware of a potential hard foul ball or broken bat, but the truth is there are too many instances where a quick reaction isn’t enough. When it comes to the kids, others say that any concerned parents shouldn’t bring their kids so close to the field. That, in a word, is ridiculous. It’s not fair at all to tell parents or guardians they shouldn’t bring kids down to those closer seats.
With that in mind, it would be interesting to know which teams, if any, felt like they had to add netting, as opposed to those who are truly concerned about fan safety. But the most important thing right now is that a lot more fans will be much safer when the new season begins.