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U.S. Senators Call on MLB to Collect, Report Foul Ball-Injury Data

Major League Baseball

Two U.S. Senators have written to Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred, calling on the league to record and publish data on foul-ball injuries at ballparks. 

While there has been debate for years about how far protective netting should run at ballparks, it has been amplified in recent months–coming on the heels of a May incident in which a young girl was injured by a foul ball during a game at Houston’s Minute Maid Park. There have been injuries at other MLB ballparks since that incident, but several teams have either already executed or publicly stated plans to extend protective netting at their facilities.

In a letter to Manfred this week, U.S. Senators Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth–both of Illinois–said they were encouraging MLB to collect data on fan injuries at ballparks and make that information available to the public. Durbin and Duckworth contend that the existing methods for learning about foul-ball injuries are inadequate, and that having this information recorded by the league and made accessible to the public will help better protect fans. More from the Chicago Sun-Times:

“We are writing to encourage Major League Baseball to collect and report data about fan injuries at MLB baseball stadiums. This will provide a more honest public dialogue and help protect baseball’s biggest (and littlest) fans,” said the Durbin and Duckworth letter, dated Aug. 6.

The senators noted there is no updated injury data available.

“We currently rely on media coverage about foul-ball injuries, which can lead to misinformation and confusion,” they said in the letter. “Fans should have more information about injuries. The creation of an injury registry would help provide the public a better understanding of fan injuries at MLB stadiums and help evaluate the voluntary safety measures that many teams are implementing. In addition, we have been told that teams collect data on areas of fan seating, which are more vulnerable to foul balls. Disclosing that information would help inform fans and their families about the safest locations to sit.

“We appreciate the efforts individual teams have taken so far for the safety of fans. Transparency benefits everyone in making informed decisions and preserves the integrity of the game.”

Durbin and Duckworth have taken an interest in the issue of protective netting and foul-ball injuries, as this is not their first letter to Manfred. In late June, they sent a letter to the commissioner that called for every MLB team to extend protective netting.

In 2018, all MLB teams were required to install extended netting to the end of the dugouts, though a few at the time exceeded that standard. More recent debate on protective netting has revolved around whether teams should take netting at their ballparks even farther down the foul lines, perhaps even as far as the foul poles.

Over recent months, there has been a flurry of MLB teams to announce extended netting projects. The Chicago White Sox extended netting from foul pole to foul pole at Guaranteed Rate Field last month, while the Washington Nationals also extended netting at Nationals Park. There are other projects expected to be completed during the 2019 season, with the Houston Astros to replace and extend netting at Minute Maid Park this month and the Los Angeles Dodgers expected to raise and extend Dodger Stadium netting by early September. Several other MLB teams have also publicly stated plans to extend protective netting at their current facilities in the near future, including the Pittsburgh PiratesBaltimore OriolesKansas City Royals, and Toronto Blue Jays.

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