Darrel Akerfelds, a former big-league reliever and an 11-year member of the Padres’ coaching staff, died Sunday after a 16-month battle with pancreatic cancer. He was 50 years old.
Akerfelds was coaching for the Padres as recently as early April and continued to visit the team in recent weeks.
“He brought a tireless work ethic and compassion for baseball to the ballpark every day,” manager Bud Black said. “He was a loyal Padre to the end. Players and coaches were made better by Ak. He will be sorely missed, and what he brought to this organization will never be forgotten.”
Akerfelds was the seventh overall pick in the 1983 draft by the Mariners. He made his major league debut with the A’s three years later and spend part of five seasons in the big leagues. He had his best year in 1990, going 5-2 with a 3.77 ERA in 93 innings out of the pen for the Phillies.
After his playing career, Akerfelds was part of the Padres organization for 16 years, first as a minor league coach. He joined the major league staff in 2001 and helped preside over some of the game’s best bullpens over the last decade.
He’s survived by his girlfriend, Julie, and son, Dalton.
The Red Sox are the latest team to extend the protective netting at their ballpark this winter. According to a statement by club president Sam Kennedy, the exact dimensions of the netting have yet to be determined, but it will likely stretch “all the way to Field Box 79, down the left field line and then all the way down to almost Canvas Alley in the Field Box 9 area.”
Fenway Park received additional protective netting prior to the 2016 season, when the netting behind home plate was lengthened to the home and visitor dugouts. Per Kennedy’s statement, the current expansion should cover everything but the outfield corners, making it nearly impossible for a line drive foul to reach fans in the lower boxes.
After a toddler sustained serious injuries from a 105-MPH foul ball to the face at Yankee Stadium last September, over half of all MLB teams decided to take more extreme preventative measures in advance of the 2018 season. The Brewers, Cardinals, Braves, Astros, Royals, Pirates, Rangers, Padres, Nationals, Mariners, Phillies, Mets, Reds, Blue Jays, Giants, Yankees, Twins and Indians are among the organizations to address the issue over the last several years, while others have yet to take significant action.