The debate over whether Major League Baseball stadiums should extend protective netting further into foul territory was reignited last week after a young girl had to be taken to the hospital when she was struck by a hard line drive hit by Chicago Cubs outfielder Albert Almora Jr. After the play, Almora Jr. was visibly distraught and broke down in tears.
In 2018, every ballpark in the league extended the protective netting to the far end of each dugout after a few high-profile incidents in which fans suffered serious injuries after being struck by foul balls and broken bats. While the increased netting may have decreased the number of injuries, it did not protect the young girl who was hit in Houston, or a fan who was killed at Dodger Stadium last season.
Although the latest fan injury has spurred calls to extend the netting even further down the foul line, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred says it is unlikely that ballparks will make any changes during the season. He says that the league is working with teams on the issue and any changes will come during the offseason.
"That conversation will take place not only during the season but, more importantly, during the offseason," Manfred said. "It's very difficult given how far the clubs have gone with the netting to make changes during the year. They really are structural issues. But because safety is so important, I'm sure that conversation will begin and continue into the offseason."
He pointed out that teams must balance fan safety with the experience of sitting close to the field that many fans want.
"There is a balance here. We do have fans that are vocal about the fact that they don't want to sit behind nets. I think that we have struck the balance in favor of fan safety so far, and I think we will continue to do that going forward."
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