We end 2017 with a countdown of the 10 biggest stories of the year on Ballpark Digest, as chosen by editors and partially based on page views. Today, #4: MLB teams roll out plans to extend protective netting at their ballparks.
When the 2018 Major League Baseball season begins, a change that will be apparent at many ballparks is extended protective netting. To address concerns over fan safety, several teams are implementing plans to provide more protective netting, shaping a direction for MLB going forward.
Over the last few seasons, there has been a push across the major and minor league levels of baseball to extend protective netting. That trend is still unfolding around both levels, but it has become particularly evident within the major league ranks over the last several months.
Calls for extended protective netting around the league grew louder and more frequent in September, after a young girl was severely struck by a foul ball at Yankee Stadium. Within the period since that injury, numerous teams have announced plans to extend protective netting before the 2018 season begins.
The New York Yankees will be extending netting at both Yankee Stadium and George M. Steinbrenner Field, their spring training home in Tampa. Among the other teams that have announced plans to provide additional netting at their regular-season homes include the Detroit Tigers, Chicago Cubs, Cincinnati Reds, San Diego Padres, Baltimore Orioles, Colorado Rockies, Seattle Mariners, Cleveland Indians, Milwaukee Brewers, and Minnesota Twins. The Yankees, it should be noted, are not the only team set to install extended netting at their spring training home, as the Pittsburgh Pirates have announced a similar plan for Bradenton, FL’s LECOM Park.
The injury at Yankee Stadium was followed by many MLB teams taking action on extended netting, but the issue had been widely discussed in baseball circles before that incident. During the 2017 season, the New York Mets undertook a notably thorough extension of the protective netting at Citi Field—prompting plenty of debate about the place of netting at ballparks. Even before that, a handful of teams—including the Philadelphia Phillies and Houston Astros—had already extended protective netting at their facilities for the 2017 season.
As more teams around the sport extend their protective netting, discussions about what it means for fan safety and the overall game day experience are sure to continue, especially now that many clubs are taking action before the 2018 season.
Previously in our Top Ten Stories of 2017 List: