Though the topic of possibly expanding safety netting at major league ballparks to protect fans from foul balls and bats has several times moved to the forefront as it did after a 5-year-old girl was hit by a 105-mph foul ball Wednesday night at Yankee Stadium the discussion has not resulted in creating standards across all ballparks for fan safety.
Some have seen the ultimate damage a foul ball can do firsthand, such as Orioles relief pitcher Darren O’Day, who was with Double-A Arkansas when he witnessed the on-field death of Mike Coolbaugh, a former major league third baseman who was hit in the head by a foul ball and killed while coaching first base for Tulsa 10 years ago.
The club has said nothing about the additional fan protection at Camden Yards, where the net behind home plate stretches to the near side of the camera pits attached to each dugout.
Major League Baseball has struggled to enact a universal policy when it comes to protective netting, leaving the decision in the hands of the clubs themselves, mostly because ballparks have different dimensions and distances from home plate to the stands.
She said he would often track her when she walked into the ballpark with the couple’s two young sons until she took her seat behind the netting, and that one time he was angry with her for meeting a friend who had seats behind the third-base dugout, fearing for her safety.
In the most recently negotiated collective bargaining agreement, the Major League Baseball Players Association campaigned for more protective netting and higher railings at major league parks, but it was not included in the new CBA.
After the 2015 season, MLB issued recommendations to extend netting behind home plate at all major league parks to at least the near side of the dugouts and within 70 feet of home plate.
At that time, the Orioles did nothing to extend their netting behind home plate because they were technically within the recommendations because netting reached to the near edge of the photo pits, which are considered part of the dugout.
At the Minnesota Twins’ Target Field baseball’s third-newest park (2010) and one of its most highly regarded netting was added beyond the dugouts before the 2016 season, at which time the dugouts were the closest in the majors to home plate.
A long-standing argument against added netting is that fans should simply be paying more attention to what’s happening on the field and stadiums have long posted signage and made announcements reminding fans to be alert but that stance has perhaps been compromised in recent years as fans attending games have become more encouraged to