The horrifying incident at Yankee Stadium earlier this week in which a young girl was hit in the face with a foul ball has prompted many reactions. Thursday, it was reported the girl was “doing all right,” which is good news.
Of all the various opinions I’ve seen from national baseball writers on this topic, I think Jeff Passan of Yahoo summed it up best:
Teams do warn fans, on their ticket, with signage and in pregame announcements, that projectiles do come into the stands, and to be careful. At the same time, the notion that a warning offers any sort of protection is absurd; even if ready and attentive, the vast majority of people are not quick enough to read the path of a ball and duck out of its way in less than a second. Furthermore, if something exists to mitigate this risk – something that has been in Japanese stadiums for years, in hockey arenas for more than a decade after the death of a 13-year-old girl and, yes, in major league stadiums awfully similar to the 20 holdouts – it’s incumbent on teams to recognize this is not a matter of choice. It should be the new normal.
This is a good idea and I hope the Cubs will consider doing the same. Cubs spokesman Julian Green told me, “The safety of our fans is paramount to a great game day experience. We will continue to work with Major League Baseball to discuss and explore ways to ensure the safest possible environment for our guests.”
I attended the Cubs/Mets games at the Tokyo Dome in Japan in 2000. Japanese parks, as noted by Passan, have netting that goes from foul pole to foul pole. The seats I had for those games were about 20 rows back, about halfway between the infield and the left-field wall. I didn’t have any trouble or issues seeing the game and the nets didn’t bother me at all. It’s something that would be different, to be sure, but I think people would get accustomed to them very quickly. (Note: I’m not suggesting foul pole to foul pole nets in MLB parks, only that nets in general don’t obscure views.)
The photo above shows the current configuration of the nets at Wrigley Field (photo was taken June 2, 2017). Extending the nets to the ends of the dugouts, as the Reds say they are doing, would be a good start. The owner of the Cardinals has come out in favor of this. As noted in the Reds announcement, they’ll install this expanded netting at Great American Ball Park for Opening Day 2018. The Cubs will, as they have for the last several offseasons, be doing various construction work around Wrigley Field this offseason. I hope they add expanded netting to that list of projects.