All 30 Major League Baseball teams will have extensive protective netting at their home ballparks ahead of the 2020 season after a series of high-profile incidents in recent years in which fans were injured by foul balls.
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MLB Commissioner Robert Manfred said 22 teams will make major expansions to their protecting netting this offseason. Seven teams will install netting that extends all the way to the foul pole, while 15 teams are adding nets that provide coverage into the outfield area. The other eight MLB teams already had protective netting in place.
“I hope it goes without saying that the safety of our fans in the ballpark are of paramount concern both to Major League Baseball and to the individual clubs,” Manfred said at MLB’s annual winter meetings in San Diego.
Stadium layouts prevent some teams from extending their nets all the way down the foul line, Manfred added. MLB officials have worked with teams on the implementation on safety netting since before the 2018 season.
Several fans have been hospitalized in recent years after being struck by batted balls at MLB stadiums. A 79-year-old woman who was struck in the head at Dodger Stadium in August 2018 later died from a traumatic head injury.
MLB faced growing pressure from lawmakers during the 2019 season to address the issue. U.S. Sens. Richard Durbin and Tammy Duckworth, both Democrats from Illinois, called on Manfred in a letter last August to publish safety data related to at-risk seats at each stadium.
The lawmakers argued the data would make it easier to “evaluate the voluntary safety measures that teams are implementing.”
“We appreciate the efforts individual teams have taken so far for the safety of fans,” the letter said. “Transparency benefits everyone in making informed decisions and preserves the integrity of the game.”
The Minnesota Twins are one of the seven teams that will install safety netting that extends into the outfield area.
“When considering ways to improve the Target Field experience, enhancing fan safety is always a high priority,” Twins President and CEO Dave St. Peter said in a press release. “Understanding every ballpark is unique in its geometry, we believe the new netting configuration is the right approach for Target Field.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.