Just yesterday, the Chicago White Sox announced that they are going to be the first team in Major League Baseball to extend protective netting all the way down to the foul poles, in an effort to make the game of baseball significantly safer for fans.
Shortly after the White Sox made their announcement, the Texas Rangers followed suit and announced that they would be extending netting down foul territory, though not all the way to the foul poles like the White Sox at Guaranteed Rate field.
This season, on May 30, headlines were made when a hard line drive off the bat of Chicago Cubs outfielder Albert Almora Jr. struck a small four-year-old girl in the face in foul territory at Minute Maid Park in Houston. After the hit, Almora immediately put his hands on his helmet. The girl is now feeling better, but at the time, she had to leave the ballpark and be taken to the hospital.
More recently, a young girl was struck by a foul ball at a St. Louis Cardinals game on Monday, June 17, when in the fourth inning, a ball off the bat of Miami Marlins second baseman Starlin Castro found foul territory on the third base side of Busch Stadium.
If people are clearly getting injured by foul balls, extending the protective netting at ballparks across the MLB seems to be the way to go. After the Cubs-Astros game back on May 30, Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant called for all ballparks to do so. Extending netting would increase enjoyment of the game, correct?
Not everyone thinks so. Nick Spino, a close friend of mine and avid baseball fan himself, had this to say:
Now there has to be netting all the way down the baseline? Those seats are worth a lot of money! Now fans have to pay big bucks to look through netting for the entire ballgame because people won’t get off phones or are putting kids in a dangerous situation? Not justified!— Nick Spino🎙 (@ndspino) June 19, 2019
Nick has a good point. When you are sitting close to the field, you need to be aware at all times. Young kids are not going to be nearly as aware as adults, so they should not really even be sitting a couple rows up from the field. The fans who do choose to sit near the field, however, might be deterred by extended netting in the future, and may choose to sit elsewhere. Why would fans want to spend more money on an obstructed view? I certainly would rather have a clear view and save some cash.
On the other hand, there are fans who think protective netting is necessary, and extending it like the White Sox are doing will only help increase enjoyment of baseball. Matt Hodges, a former member of the High Point University baseball team, had this to say:
I think the extended netting is important because of how hard balls are hit now. Even if you were paying attention there sometimes isn’t enough time to react to a ball, especially for a child— hodges (@matt_hodges25) June 19, 2019
What do I think of this issue? I think that protective netting is necessary, and with how hard balls are being hit nowadays, it makes sense to extend it all the way down foul territory. To be honest, when I am at games, I am so focused on the game that I do not even recognize the netting. Matt has a good point: with the speed of balls leaving the bat nowadays, you might not even have time to react.
Whatever teams and the MLB as a whole need to do in order to make the game safer, I am all for it. If that means extended netting all the way down to the foul poles, I say go for it. If that means fans have the option to bring in hard helmets to prevent injury, I like that idea too.
Baseball is America’s Pastime, and I always want it to be that way.