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Top 25 Baseball Stories of 2016 — #20: The lifespan of a ballpark gets shorter

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We’re a few short days away from 2017 so it’s a good time to look back at the top 25 baseball stories of 2016. Some of them took place on the field, some of them off the field and some of them were creatures of social media, fan chatter and the like. No matter where the story broke, however, these were the stories baseball fans were talking about most this past year.

On October 2, the Atlanta Braves played their final game in Turner Field, beating the Tigers 1-0. This coming year they will begin play in the new Sun Trust Park, just up the freeway in the Atlanta suburbs. while two teams play in parks over a century old and while other clubs have no intention of leaving parks that are 25 years-old or more, the Braves’ time in Turner Field lasted a mere 20 years.

The Braves’ move, announced a couple of years ago, seemed like an odd, opportunistic outlier. A bad lease for the city combined with an aggressive and generous handout from a nearby local government in one of the few major cities in the country where gentrification and development of a once downtrodden urban core has not arrested the old pattern of flight out of the city center and into surrounding areas. Places like Detroit, Cleveland and New York have seen sport teams move into or back into the city after years in the burbs. In other places, downtown ballparks built in the 1990s and 2000s find themselves in newly vibrant neighborhoods. While the mutli-purpose stadiums of the 1960s had a shelf life, with the exception of Turner Field, the more modern ballparks of the past 20-25 years will no doubt prove more venerable, right?

Not all of them. The Texas Rangers aren’t moving downtown, but they announced in May that planned to begin play in a new, taxpayer-funded retractable roof ballpark in 2020 all the same. This to replace Globe Life Park in Arlington, which opened for business way back in 1994. By the time it closes, Globe Life will have outlasted Turner Field but not many others.

It still seems unlikely that any other relatively new ballparks will be replaced by even newer parks in the way it was done in Atlanta and Texas. Heck, even old and obsolete parks like the ones housing the Oakland A’s and Tampa Bay Rays do not yet have anything approaching concrete replacements in the pipeline yet. But after the Braves and Rangers received unexpected new homes, nothing would be all that shocking anymore.

Red Sox to extend protective netting at Fenway Park in 2018

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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.