Extended protective netting is coming to Nationals Park, as the Washington Nationals will install netting that runs down the foul lines next month.
As part of plans announced on Thursday, the Nationals will make an in-season change to the protective netting at Nationals Park. The current netting at Nationals Park extends just past the dugouts, but new netting to be installed over July’s Major League Baseball All-Star Break will run down the foul lines, stretching nearly to each foul pole.
While all 30 teams announced extended netting plans ahead of the 2018 season, calls for further protection for fans have grown louder since last month, when a young girl was injured by a foul ball at Houston’s Minute Maid Park. This week has seen a couple of MLB teams take action, including the Nationals and Chicago White Sox, who earlier this week announced that the netting at Guaranteed Rate Field will be extended from foul pole to foul pole some time this summer. More from The Washington Post:
“With the amount of incidents you’ve seen happen over the past few years, it seems like, to me, it’s a no-brainer,” Nationals first baseman Ryan Zimmerman said after Thursday’s announcement. “The most expensive seats are already behind nets and no one complains about that.”
The May 29 incident in Houston sparked a leaguewide conversation about protective netting and debates of whether extending it would disrupt the viewing experience for fans. It also grabbed the interest of Nationals owner Mark Lerner. Lerner, according to a person with knowledge of the planning, brought up extended netting immediately after Cubs outfielder Albert Almora Jr. ripped a ball into the stands that sent the 4-year-old to the hospital. Lerner wrote about the netting in a letter to fans Thursday, which also served as the organization’s news release, saying, “I can’t imagine what her parents must have felt in the moment.”
The Nationals are purchasing roughly 315 feet of additional netting.
All of the current netting, which extends just beyond each dugout, will be replaced in July. The Nationals said Thursday that the new netting will offer a “higher degree of transparency” than their existing setup. The Chicago White Sox also announced plans this week to extend the netting at Guaranteed Rate Field. The Detroit Tigers have netting that extends well past the dugout that was installed last season, and the Texas Rangers previously announced that they would have extended netting in their new home park when it opens next season.
With two MLB teams announcing in-season netting changes this week, expect there to be more discussion about whether clubs around the league should reevaluate their current netting situations between now and the 2020 season. It is also worth noting that any actions around MLB could have implications at the lower levels of baseball. Numerous Minor League Baseball, independent, and summer-collegiate league teams have extended protective netting at their facilities in recent years, and organizations at those levels of baseball could take a closer look at the safety measures within their ballparks.
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