The Pirates are the latest team to announce the extension of protective netting. President Frank Coonelly announced on Thursday that the netting will be extended all the way near the foul poles in the outfield corners. In a statement to the media, Coonelly said:
As we stated in 2017 when we were one of the first Major League Clubs to extend out protective netting to the ends of the dugouts, fan safety at PNC Park is of paramount importance. It is heartbreaking to see a fan injured by an object leaving the field of play at any ballpark. We have once again engaged our netting experts to reevaluate our protective netting design and to immediately develop a plan to extend the protective netting at PNC Park farther down the baselines. While we have put these efforts on a very fast track, we are committed to developing the right plan for PNC Park — one that will increase fan safety while also preserving and enhancing the overall game day experience to the greatest degree possible. We will share more information with our season ticket holders, fans, and other partners as our plans are finalized.
Last month, Cubs outfielder Albert Almora hit a line drive foul ball into the stands at Minute Maid Park. The ball unfortunately struck a two-year-old girl in the head. As the fan received medical attention, Almora was visibly shaken up. He and teammate Kris Bryant called for extended protective netting after the game. We later learned that the girl suffered a fractured skull, subdural bleeding, brain contusions, brain edema, and severe seizures.
Commissioner Rob Manfred has said that he prefers to allow teams to decide for themselves whether or not to extend protective netting rather than issue a league-wide directive. The aforementioned four teams should be the start of a majority of teams choosing to extend netting.