Earlier this season, a four-year-old girl was hit by a foul ball at Minute Maid Park on May 29th during a Chicago Cubs ballgame. The foul ball came off the bat of Cubs outfielder Albert Almora Jr. who was noticeably distraught over the incident.
During a White Sox game at Guaranteed Rate Field on June 10th, another foul ball struck a woman who then also had to be taken to the hospital. These two incidents, along with several in the past, have organizations calling for more measures to be taken to protect its fans.
And the White Sox plan on being the first MLB team to do something about it.
Before the 2018 baseball season, all 30 MLB teams extended the protective netting to the end of each dugout. With the increasing speeds at which balls fly off player’s bats, it has become increasingly unsafe to sit so close to the field without any sort of protection.
The Chicago White Sox will be extending the netting to each foul pole in order to ensure the total safety of all fans in attendance. The organization is currently collaborating with the Illinois Sports Facilities Authority to make this change as soon as possible rather than waiting until the 2020 season.
The idea of extending the netting has been lavished with praise from baseball players. White Sox right-hander, Luis Giolito says, “I think it’s great. I hate seeing young kids get hit, having to go to the hospital. It just leaves a sick feeling in all of our stomachs.”
Cubs third baseman, Kris Bryant also chimed in saying, “Any safety measure we can take to make sure fans are safe, we should do it. The ball is coming hard and with the speed of the game, it is needed.”
There are some that oppose the extended netting, however, saying it will negatively influence the experience of the fan. Having to watch a live baseball game through the grid of a protective net is not what some would consider enjoyable.
Although most of these complaints are coming from diehard fans, it is something that teams may need to consider. Will the nets affect ticket sales, and if so, what’s more important—the safety of the fans or the bottom line?
Quoting Luis Giolito once more, “I see the counter-arguments like, ‘Don’t sit there’ or ‘Just pay attention to the game.’ Dude, no matter how much you’re paying attention to the game, if that thing’s coming in 115 miles an hour with tail… it could hit you right in the forehead.”
The biggest question will be how long it takes the remaining MLB teams to implement the extended netting. Approximately 2 weeks ago, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred stated that the structural issues for each individual ballpark would make it difficult to mandate a mid-season net-extension proposal. However, it seems that teams may take matters into their own hands.
The Texas Rangers have also announced that they will be extending their netting next season when their new stadium opens. Rather than having the nets reach the foul poles, they will stop mid-way between where they currently are and the outfield wall.