Yesterday the Arizona Diamondbacks and the Tampa Bay Rays announced that they would join the parade of other teams who, in the past several months, have announced plans to extend protective netting to the far end of each dugout. With that, all 30 teams will have done so, Major League Baseball just announced.
Major League Baseball did not require them to do so. Rather, in December 2015, Major League Baseball announced a recommendation that clubs extend the netting, coupled with a “fan education” initiative about the dangers of flying balls. I and many others criticized these measures as (a) inadequate; and (b) geared more toward liability avoidance on the part of the league and its clubs than toward the best practices to improve safety measures. While a handful of clubs followed the recommendations in 2016 and 2017, for nearly two years those recommendations were, quite predictably, ignored by most clubs. It seemed it would take a fan being killed or a high-profile instance of a fan being severely injured by a foul ball in order to motivate clubs to make a change.
Seems that was true, because the tipping point on the netting came when a toddler was severely injured by a foul ball at a Yankees game late last season. It was in the wake of that incident that clubs changed their mind on the matter and began, one after another, to implement the changes.
It’s a shame that it took a child receiving multiple facial fractures and bleeding on the brain in order to make clubs come to their senses on this matter, but it’s good that they, finally, have come to their senses.