One of the larger rules/context changes of the offseason was Major League Baseball’s, well, encouragement, of teams to extend protective netting farther down the lines than it had been in the past. Most clubs have done this.
I’ve heard a lot of fans complaining to me about this. Which was fun because all of the complaining came before any games were played this year, but that’s how complaining goes sometimes. They’re worried about sightlines and the intimacy of the ballpark and all of that jazz and they really enjoy tut-tutting people who don’t pay full attention to every game and, I guess, stand ready to snag a line drive foul ball traveling at 100 miles per hour like they are. A lot of tough, tough hombres who flash slick leather like to complain about netting, I’ve found.
But there’s one group of people who love the extended netting. The players. Bob Nightengale speaks to them today and several of them go on record talking about how disturbing it is to hit a foul into the stands that harms someone and how happy they are that the chances of that happening have been reduced to some degree. They know how fast the ball travels and they know that, even if you’re not on your cell phone or messing with your kids or talking to your seatmate that it’s not always possible to stop a screaming foul ball headed toward your face. No matter what the people who hate nets say.
I’m still critical of the specifics of Major League Baseball’s “policy” on netting, as I feel that it is more of a buck-passing, liability avoidance measure than it is a clear and concerted attempt to improve fan safety. Why not just mandate a certain standard? But that aside, more netting is good. You get used to it in five minutes if you’re at the game. And it makes a lot of people safer.