The Toronto Blue Jays are the latest MLB team to announce they would be addressing fan safety for the 2018 season and will be reevaluating Rogers Centre netting, which currently runs only to the near ends of the dugouts.
Three MLB teams (Cincinnati, San Diego and Seattle) have already announced they would be extending netting for 2018, while the Colorado Rockies announced a study of the issue. And while the Blue Jays have not committed to extended netting, it would be a surprise if the team didn’t end up installing it for the upcoming season. From Sportsnet.ca:
The dome was in compliance with Major League Baseball recommendations even before they were updated in December 2015, with fans in the field-level seats between the near ends of both dugouts protected by netting. And unlike some other ballparks, the adjacent seats start well beyond the suggested 70 feet of home plate.
Given the rising velocity of pitches – and by extension, exit speed of balls off the bat – that may no longer be sufficient. Add in the potential for flying bat shards with jagged ends and the increased use of mobile phones or other distracting screens by fans in the stands, and clubs have good reason to reconsider their current standards.
“We absolutely want to ensure that our fans are safe when they come to the ballpark,” Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins told Sportsnet’s Ben Nicholson-Smith. “I watch games at lots of minor-league stadiums, often with my children. I’m extremely mindful about ensuring the safest possible environment for all fans.”
Right now 10 MLB teams have installed extended netting, with three more announced for 2018 (and probably one more; the Rockies announced they were studying the issue). MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred has spoken of teams committing themselves to a game plan this offseason.
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