Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred said Wednesday that all 30 Major League Baseball Teams will expand the protective netting in stadiums beginning with the 2020 season.
During the league's winter meetings in San Diego, Manfred told CNBC that the protective netting will extend "substantially beyond the end of the dugout."
The move by MLB comes after concerns over fans being injured and sometimes killed by foul balls has increased in recent years. In 2018, a grandmother who was celebrating her 79th birthday at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles was killed after being hit in the head by a foul ball. Another, more recent incident in May, involved a 2-year-old girl who was hit by a foul ball field at Minute Maid Park in Houston, sending her to the hospital for treatment of a fractured skull, seizures, subdural bleeding, brain contusions, and brain edema.
Another 3-year-old in July was struck by a foul ball off the bat at a Cleveland Indians game. The three-year-old boy was sitting a few sections past the protective netting, which runs from dugout to dugout, when the baseball hit him. He was driven to a local hospital and is in stable condition.
Of the 30 clubs extending the netting, Manfred said seven or eight of those teams will extend the netting all the way down to the foul poles, with another 15 teams expanding the netting "down the elbow" of the playing fields.
“The reason for that is when the stadiums jut away you have to run cables over the playing field to go all the way to the foul pole, so it’s very difficult structurally to do,” Manfred said. “And then we had a group of clubs who were already well beyond the dugout, and they are going to continue in that mode.”
The decision came after the league office met with each club, with all parties involved deciding to make the move in 2020.
“There was no rule passed or anything like that,” Manfred said. “We just went out, talked to the clubs, made the case that extending netting was the thing to do, and the clubs individually responded in a positive way.”
Between 2012 and 2019, there were at least 808 injuries to fans from baseballs reported, according to an NBC News investigation.
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