In the turn of the New Year between 2015 and 2016, Major League Baseball recommended – but did not mandate – increased safety netting at its parks. This followed injuries to several fans struck by balls and even bat shards as they sat in their seats.
At the time, there was pushback from those who said placing netting was a knee-jerk reaction and that such injuries were rare.
Now, it looks like the issue might be up for review again, and that recommendations on the amount of netting might even be increased, after a toddler was struck in the face with a 105-mph foul ball as she attended a Yankees/Twins game in New York with her grandparents in late September.
And maybe, just maybe, it might become a rule.
Count on the players to get behind it. When a reporter asked him whether he thought increased netting was necessary, Yankees rookie slugger Aaron Judge said: "We need it."
Twins players also were distressed by the incident in the stands, and second baseman Brian Dozier and the Yankees' Matt Holliday had tears as they said prayers at second base.
"We've been trying to get these teams to put nets up," Dozier said. "Number one, you don't bring kids down there. And number two, every stadium needs to have nets. That's it. I don't care about the damn view of the fan or what. It's all about safety. I still have a knot in my stomach."
As to what it would take to get nets up, Dozier responded: "The last resort that we don't ever want to have happen. I'm not going to say it, but you know what I'm talking about."
The recommendation previously made by MLB only advised teams to use netting or screens between the ends of the dugouts closest to home plate in each ballpark. However, a final decision on the use and amount of netting is left up to each team operating a ballpark.
According to ABC7 in Chicago, The Mets increased the amount and length of the netting at Citi Field this season. In addition, New York City Councilman Rafael Espinal has introduced legislation to turn that recommendation into city law to protect fans.
Which, of course, reawakened the debate.
"It remains an ongoing discussion in the industry," Commissioner Rob Manfred said in response to the incident and the question of netting. "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."
"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," he said.
Sports at other levels may likewise be examining their protocols. Minor League Baseball announced it was in favor of the safety measures back in 2015 and intended to comply with them. This article contains a synopsis of MLB teams and their announced intentions at this time. It is a sure bet, however, that as postseason begins, many will be re-evaluating the amount and placement of netting since the incident at Yankee Stadium.
Sports Destination Management contacted NCAA repeatedly for information on netting and safety requirements but did not receive a response by press time.