Major League Baseball has issued the long-awaited recommendations about increased netting at ballparks, suggesting that coverage be expanded to the near end of the dugouts and within 70 feet of home plate.
Here are the official recommendations, per MLB, The emphasis is on protecting the most vulnerable areas of the ballpark while also educating fans:
- Clubs are encouraged to implement or maintain netting (or another effective protective screen or barrier of their choosing) that shields from line-drive foul balls all field-level seats that are located between the near ends of both dugouts (i.e., the ends of the dugouts located closest to home plate, inclusive of any adjacent camera wells) and within 70 feet of home plate. The Commissioner’s Office has retained a consultant specializing in ballpark architecture and protective netting to assist interested clubs in implementing this recommendation.
- Although clubs already provide warnings to fans about the dangers posed by batted balls and bats entering the stands and the need to pay attention to the action on the field during each at-bat, the Commissioner’s Office recommends that clubs continue to explore ways to educate their fans on these issues and is providing clubs with resources to assist them in this area.
- The Commissioner’s Office will be working with the clubs and online ticketing sellers to identify ways to provide customers with additional information at the point of sale about which seats are (and are not) behind netting.
There has been plenty of discussions about netting at Major League Baseball ballparks during the Winter Meetings, and there certainly proposal to extend netting farther down each line. And, indeed, it would not be surprising if some teams exceeded these recommendations in 2016 or beyond.
“Major League Baseball prides itself on providing fans in our ballparks with unparalleled proximity and access to our players and the game taking place on the field,” said MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred via press statement. “At the same time, it is important that fans have the option to sit behind protective netting or in other areas of the ballpark where foul balls and bats are less likely to enter. This recommendation attempts to balance the need for an adequate number of seating options with our desire to preserve the interactive pre-game and in-game fan experience that often centers around the dugouts, where fans can catch foul balls, see their favorite players up close and, if they are lucky, catch a tossed ball or other souvenir.
“I am confident that this recommendation will result not only in additional netting at Major League ballparks but also draw additional attention to the need for fans who make the choice not to sit behind netting to be prepared for the possibility of foul balls and bats entering the stands.”
And while the standards don’t yet apply to Minor League Baseball ballparks, MiLB President & CEO Pat O’Conner today released the following statement:
“Minor League Baseball is very appreciative of the time and effort that went into the research done by Major League Baseball in an effort to balance fan safety and the overall fan experience. Minor League Baseball clubs strive to offer safe, family-friendly facilities for our fans and these recommendations will help ensure the safety of those fans sitting close to the action. We wholeheartedly endorse these recommendations made by Major League Baseball in regard to the protective netting in our ballparks and encourage our clubs to implement these recommendations as soon as practical.”