The Atlanta Braves announced yesterday that they will be the latest team to extend protective netting. Current netting at Sun Trust Park goes almost to the end of the dugouts. The new netting will extent from foul pole to foul pole. The installation should be done by the end of September, the team said. That makes the Braves the 11th team to announce an extension of netting this summer.
As is usual in the wake of such announcements, a vocal segment of fandom is appalled, claiming that, if people simply paid better attention to the field, they would not be at risk of injury (click the above link and read the comments to see some examples). Such views are pretty idiotic, however, in light of the speed at which batted balls are leaving the field these days, along with the number of distractions teams themselves create as part of the game day experience. It’s also worth noting that every single time a ballplayer is asked about netting they are emphatically in favor of it. These are men, by the way, who routinely react to hot shots that 99.9% of the adult population can’t even see. If they think it’s unreasonable for fans to “simply pay attention and protect themselves” then some armchair experts’ views on this don’t really matter to me that much.
The recent trend of teams extending nets farther down the foul lines comes in the wake of an incident in May at a game between the Astros and Chicago Cubs in Houston in which a two-year-old girl suffered a skull fracture when struck by a foul ball off the bat of the Cubs’ Albert Almora Jr. The child’s family was just beyond the protective netting down the baseline. Since then the Orioles, White Sox, Astros, Royals, Dodgers, Marlins, Pirates, Rangers, Blue Jays and Nationals have either extended or announced that they will extend protective netting. Now the Braves join them.
I suspect that, by Opening Day 2020, all 30 teams will have followed suit.