Exactly one week ago today, the Yankees and Twins were forced to stop a game in the bottom of the fifth inning, when a line-drive foul ball went into the stands at Yankee Stadium, and, unfortunately, hit a child in the face.
Since then, concerns and calls for more netting along the foul lines have grown louder, with some suggesting the netting extend all the way to the foul poles in left and right field. Naturally – and because literally any change to anything almost always seems to upset people – many others have been against such a move.
The Cubs, however, have made their decision and will add at least 30 more feet of netting down the left and right-field lines, after already adding more netting before this season. Several other teams are also planning to extend netting. And, according to Crane Kenney, the Cubs are considering adding even more than the 30 additional feet already scheduled.
“Our goal is to create a safe environment,” Kenney said, via CBS Chicago. “One of the things that will be happening next year is we move the dugouts a little farther down the line … [and] the netting will get pulled a little farther toward the foul poles as a result ….”
If you find yourself among those who don’t feel this move is necessary, let me lobby you for just a second. First, this isn’t just a reactive decision because of one isolated event. Fan injuries on foul balls do happen every year and many times they’re entirely outside of the individual’s control (after all, you can make the argument that fans should be paying attention, but a child is a child and that’s never going to change).
Second, as Kenney points out, distractions exist in our world today (cell phones, mainly) that didn’t exist in other eras of the game. Like it or not, people will be on their phones at the ballpark and that means that teams may need to take extra care in protecting those individuals.
Third, this isn’t just a mindless solution. The Cubs, in particular, have been studying spray charts (just like coaches do for shifting their infielders) and have identified troublesome areas and have made strides to mitigate those spots in particular.
And finally, for those worried about an obstructed view, remember: your brain will adjust for the netting quickly. Soon after sitting down, you’ll basically forget it’s there. And if, for some reason, you are incapable of not seeing the tiny black strings, just remember that it’s a reasonable part of the price for the safety of others.
So, given the thoughtful and holistic approach taken by the Cubs and the benefits of extra netting, I’m not sure I can see much downside in this. The Cubs and MLB figure to keep studying this issue to continue to making the ballpark safer for everyone.