The Orioles announced on Thursday that the protective netting at Oriole Park at Camden Yards will be extended down each foul line near each foul pole. Their statement read:
In a continuing effort to create the most fan and family-friendly atmosphere in sports, this week at Oriole Park at Camden Yards, crews are extending protective netting at the same height of the existing backstop netting down each foul line to near each foul pole. The Orioles and the Maryland Stadium Authority, in conjunction with Populous and other experts in the field, researched all available options and performed due diligence to determine that this is the best and safest option for Oriole Park. The extended and raised protective netting will be in place prior to the club’s next home game on September 5 against the Texas Rangers.
The Orioles will also extend protective netting to near the foul poles at Ed Smith Stadium, the Orioles’ year-round training complex in Sarasota, Fla. by the start of 2020 Spring Training.
The safety and security of our fans is of the utmost importance to the Orioles as we continue cultivating a fun, fan-friendly, and affordable experience for everyone to safely enjoy Orioles Baseball.
The Orioles join the Braves, Astros, White Sox, Royals, Dodgers, Marlins, Pirates, Rangers, Blue Jays and Nationals among teams to extend their protective netting or to have announced intentions to extend protective netting.
Much of this effort stems from an incident in late June in which Cubs outfielder Albert Almora struck a child in the head with a line drive foul ball. The young fan suffered a fractured skull, subdural bleeding, brain contusions, brain edema, and severe seizures.
A very small group of very loud people always complains whenever a team decides to add more netting, but it’s ultimately the moral and rational choice. Given the rate at which batters are hitting bullets — thanks in part to the commodification of stats like exit velocity — fans have less time than ever before to react to foul balls. Modern ballparks have brought fans closer to the action as well. When one factors in the myriad distractions at the stadium such as the Jumbotron, music, other fans entering and exiting rows, etc., it’s completely unreasonable to expect fans to be able to defend themselves from 110 MPH line drive foul balls at all times. And whether they’re at fault or not, having fans suffer traumatic injuries at their stadiums is bad business for teams.
Expect all 30 teams to have extended their stadiums’ protective netting down the foul lines by the start of the 2020 regular season.