Baseball to Extend Protective Nets Down Foul Line?

On Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2017, one of the worst possible nightmares you could imagine at a baseball park happened. A young girl was struck by a 105-mph foul ball off the bat of New York Yankees’ Todd Frazier during a game versus the Minnesota Twins.

Frazier immediately crouched with his hands over his face. He then bowed his head, walked away from home plate, crouched again and rested his head on the end of his bat.

Frazier would later explain that he thought about his two kids, both under three years old, and hopes that the girl who was struck is alright. “I know the dad, or whoever it was that was with them, was trying their hardest, but the ball’s coming at 120 miles an hour at them and the ball’s hooking,” Frazier said. “So, it’s like if you’ve never seen a ball like that, which most people in the world haven’t, it’s very tough.”

Twins second baseman Brian Dozier and Yankees outfielder Matt Holiday were two of the many players and coaches shown struggling with the situation. Players huddled around second base in a brief prayer as medics attended to the girl.

“Either, one, you don’t bring kids down there, or number two, every stadium needs to have nets,” Dozier said. “That’s it. I don’t care about the damn view of a fan or what. It’s all about safety. I still have a knot in my stomach.”

Dozier explained that, as players, they are trying to get teams to put nets farther down.

At Target Field, with the seats being so close to home plate, there is a rule that dictates that there has to be netting at a certain distance. “I say put them all down. All the way down,” Dozier said.

Twins infielder Eduardo Escobar said perhaps kids under a certain age should be prohibited from seats without protection.

On extending the netting, Yankees’ Aaron Judge said, “We need it.”

Frazier and teammate CC Sabathia said their families always sit behind the netting or screens.

Major League Baseball issued recommendations for protective netting or screens in December 2015. They encouraged teams to have something in place between the ends of the dugouts closest to home plate.

“It remains an ongoing discussion in the industry,” MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred said. “We gave some guidelines two years ago, and what we have done since then is that we have encouraged the individual clubs to engage in a localized process, look at their own stadiums — every stadium’s different — and to try to make a good decision about how far the netting should go in order to promote fan safety.”

Manfred continued, “If you look at what’s happened, there has been a continuous focus forward movement in terms of increased netting in stadiums around the leagues, and I expect that process will continue this offseason.”

The New York Mets extended netting past the outfield ends of the dugouts this season after the All-Star break. The Yankees said in an August statement that they “are seriously exploring extending the netting prior to the 2018 season.”

Two other incidents happened this year at Yankee Stadium with fans getting hit in the head by pieces of bats or foul balls.

At Target Field, the Twins have an additional seven foot tall netting that stretches across the top of the dugout in addition to the regular netting behind home plate.

Three teams issued statements Thursday, Sept. 21, saying that they plan to put more netting in place. The Cincinnati Reds, San Diego Padres and Seattle Mariners all announced moments within each other that they will extend their nets.

The Colorado Rockies say they are in the process of exploring the feasibility of expending their nets.

“I’m for making everything as safe as possible for everyone at the ballpark — players, too,” Yankees’ manager Joe Girardi said.

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