Nationals principal owner Mark Lerner announced on Thursday that, during the All-Star break, the protective netting at Nationals Park will be extended to just short of the outfield corners. Lerner notes that they will use a new style of netting, Ultra Cross Knotless Dyneema. The knotless style supposedly offers more transparency for fans. Lerner also added that the netting will be designed in a way that will allow it to be raised and lowered to foster pregame interactions between players and fans.
Lerner said he became emotional when a four-year-old girl was struck by a line drive during an Astros-Cubs game last month and was heartbroken seeing the reaction from Albert Almora, Jr., who hit the line drive.
The Nationals join the White Sox and Rangers among teams to announce plans to extend protective netting. Commissioner Rob Manfred has said he would prefer to allow the teams to decide for themselves whether or not to extend netting rather than create a league-wide policy.
Beyond the obvious moral imperative to keep fans safe, it’s just good business to extend the netting. It costs teams relatively nothing to install, protects them from lawsuits which they would have a non-zero chance to lose, and doesn’t allow the opportunity for bad P.R. situations when a fan is very visibly injured in the stands. Fans who are against the extension of protective netting will forget it’s there very quickly — just ask the people who sit in the more expensive seating behind home plate, which has been protected by netting for a long time, or ask baseball fans in Japan. We should be seeing more teams join the Nationals, White Sox, and Rangers in the coming months.