The Top 25 Baseball Stories of 2015 — #18: Baseball recommends extended protective netting

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We’re a few short days away from 2016 so it’s a good time to look back at the top 25 baseball stories of 2015. 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.

Back in June, Red Sox starter Wade Miley threw a pitch to Athletics third baseman Brett Lawrie. The pitch broke Lawrie’s bat and a shard flew into the stands, striking fan Tonya Carpenter in the face as she sat in the third base boxes. The fan bled profusely and shrieked in pain as she was taken off on a stretcher. She recovered, but not before a spending a week in the hospital and a stint in a rehabilitation center. And frankly, she was lucky. She could’ve been killed.

In the wake of that incident — and in the wake of multiple fans injured by foul balls and a high-profile lawsuit being filed — Major League Baseball announced in December that it would look into the matter of fan safety. Including the possibility of extending protective netting further down the baselines than it currently goes.

In December, Major League Baseball issued some recommendations — not requirements, mere recommendations — to this end. They were limited as well, “encouraging” clubs to shield the seats between the near ends of both dugouts (i.e., the ends of the dugouts located closest to home plate) and within 70 feet of home plate with protective netting or other safety materials of their choice. It should be noted that many teams already do this. And that netting fitting that recommendation would not have helped Ms. Carpenter, who was sitting further down the line. It’s hard to see these proposals as anything other than measures aimed at shielding baseball from liability over batted ball or bat-shard injuries than at directly shielding fans from injuries.

Still, baseball’s attention has been turned to the matter, even if its actions seem like half-measures. Eventually, one must assume given baseball’s penchant for incremental, rather than wholesale changes, further steps will be taken.