With the awful incident of the little girl getting hit with a foul ball in Houston the topic of extending the nets down to the foul pole lines has been re-ignited. Over the last few years teams have been extending the netting. Some teams just go past the dugout while other teams go further down the line. When I visited the National’s ballpark I noticed that they had descending netting down the line that were also retractable. During batting practice the nets were lowered and raised for game time. In San Diego, the nets go quite a long way down and descend as they get further away from home plate.
Check this out! It was a SCARY & JARRING moment @MinuteMaidParks last night during #Cubs–#Astros game, when a 4 YO girl was hit by a foul ball! It happened when Cub's player, Albert Almora Jr. hit a foul line drive into the stands. Fortunately, she's OK. #khou11 #htownrush pic.twitter.com/xvrxwmV5c5
— Michelle Choi (@MichelleKHOU) May 30, 2019
In this article we’ll take a look at some of the issues regarding adding more netting. We’ll look at how it could impact the fan experience at Dodger Stadium. In a twitter poll from Maury Brown, almost 3,000 fans voted and 66% want safety netting extended to the foul polls.
Should MLB extend safety netting to the foul poles?
— Maury Brown (@BizballMaury) May 30, 2019
What Seating Would Be Impacted At Dodger Stadium
All seats from dugout to dugout are already covered with netting. The Baseline Club seating that goes from the dugout deep into the outfield are considered premium seating. The impact to the fans that do pay a premium price for those seats would have a net in front of them. Personally, I don’t get bothered by netting, visually, but some do. Another impact is fan interactions with players. It would depend on if the netting is retractable, but pre-game autographs get much more difficult. These factors could lower the demand for these seats.
The way field level seats in section 48-52 (right field line) and 49-53 (left field line) are laid out I would wonder if they’d get the netting. Just like the Baseline Club seats, netting in front of those could impact interactions with players. All the field level seats behind the Baseline Club seats would be impacted visually.
Preferred Netting Solution
At a minimum there needs to be full netting that extends from the dugout down until Baseline Club 36 (right field line) and 35 (left field). From those points they could do some descending and retractable netting down the reset of the lines. The biggest question I would have is how high would the netting be? There must be some AWS Statcast information that has some foul ball heights and velocities. The heights of the nets would impact the vision of Loge and maybe even Reserved levels. I would not think it would be much but it is a consideration.
The Realities Being Faced
In all cases where the fan experience is impacted there will be evaluations to balance out all the factors. Some of those factors include the fan experience but I’m hoping safety is weighted a lot. Some say that people need to pay attention better or not sit in certain sections. Personally, I bring a glove when I am in range of 100 MPH foul balls. I don’t want to take a chance of my wife or other family members getting injured. However, how many of us have an eye on the batter, the scoreboard, the players on defense, our Instagram and Twitter? Nobody is paying 100% attention to the batted ball. Some fans also don’t realize the danger that does exist and are not prepared to protect themselves or their loved ones when that foul ball comes rocketing towards them.
According to the Washington Post there are 1,750 fans that are injured by foul balls per year. There have been two deaths at Dodger stadium over the last 50 years. The severity of the injuries is varied and is also taken into account for the calculations for what should be done (or not done) to keep fans safe.
Every few months there is a report of a serious incident regarding a foul ball striking a fan. The 4 year old in Houston getting struck, coupled with the emotion shown by Albert Almora, has re-ignited the debate about more netting. Baseball and each team needs to evaluate the foul balls coming into the stands and extend and/or raise the existing netting. Yes, there will be some lessoning of the fan experience but those could be partially mitigated with retractable netting. I don’t have an issue with the netting impairing my vision. However, the closer you are to the netting the more it impacts your vision. Nothing will be 100% perfect but striving for some more protections for the fans is an important goal.