On Wednesday, a young fan was hit with a foul ball at Yankee Stadium along the third base line. She was cared for by first aid workers before going to the hospital, where her father said that “she’s doing all right” but that it was still too soon to tell whether surgery would be necessary.
Reactions from many in and around the sport were swift and decisive: more protective netting is needed at many stadiums. There was, of course, backlash to this, but anybody who values the protection of fans pretty much agrees more netting is the only option, and one that needs to happen soon.
For the majority of teams, netting in front of fans ends on the home plate side of both dugouts rather than extending all the way to the far side where the dugout ends down the first and third base lines.
The Yankees are one of those teams. The Padres, Reds, and Rockies are also part of that group of teams, but each of them has now publicly stated that they will be extending the netting at their ballparks before next season.
The Rockies released a statement insisting that the safety of their fans is their number one priority, but explained the delay in extra netting by citing the “complex” nature of the project.
Here is the Colorado Rockies statement regarding expanded netting at Coors Field. pic.twitter.com/mJAO48BlPJ— Colorado Rockies (@Rockies) September 21, 2017
The Cincinnati Reds have confirmed more protective netting will be in place by the beginning of next year.
The Mariners also confirmed they will be extending their netting.
The Red Sox front office slightly talked around the issue by reminding everyone that they just added protective netting in 2016, but said they are thinking about extending it further in the future.
Red Sox CEO Sam Kennedy on whether the club will add more protective netting: pic.twitter.com/I9Qjmrn33N— Tim Britton (@TimBritton) September 21, 2017
Before the Padres’ game on Thursday, Commissioner Rob Manfred spoke to the press at Petco Park.
About the incident at Yankee Stadium, Manfred said, “that type of accident is upsetting for all of us” before getting to the business at hand. Manfred also said that based on his “early conversations” with teams he is encouraged that progress will be made and that the league will “redouble” efforts to make that happen before the start of next season.
It’s a horrific thought that it took a little girl getting hit in the face with a 105-mph pitch for teams to reconsider how much protection they provide fans — especially for teams like the Padres, who had a fan injured at their own park earlier this season — but it is also unrealistic to assume the league would be publicly urging this reassessment right now without that accident happening.
The regular season is almost over, and there’s been a lot of talk about how long it takes to consider the physics of extending the netting and the best material for each park. Hopefully the many teams that don’t already have an increased amount of netting spend as much time as necessary in the offseason making sure it is in place by Opening Day next year.