MLB’s refusal to mandate extended safety netting is embarrassing


Protective netting has been directly behind home plate in every baseball stadium for decades. You never hear folks in those high-dollar seats complain about not having baseballs hit them in the head, and yet that seems to be one convoluted reason behind the hesitancy to make extended netting mandatory in every stadium.

Apparently, certain season-ticket holders behind dugouts don’t want the extended nets to impede their view. That is, quite honestly, insane logic. Nets are not a viewing problem.

And then there’s the reason commissioner Rob Manfred gave last year, via the New York Daily News: “I think the reluctance to do it on a league-wide basis only relates to the difficulty of having a single rule that fits 30 stadiums that obviously are not designed the same way.”


In what world does the difficulty of designing a rule to fit 30 stadiums — not 3,000 stadiums or 30,000 stadiums, mind you, just 30 — exceed the difficulty of potentially explaining to a family how sorry baseball is that their kid was killed by a foul ball at a baseball game?

And that’s not hyperbole, either. As Yahoo’s Jeff Passan pointed out in his column, a kid died four days after he was hit in the head by a foul ball at Dodger Stadium. That happened in 1970. 1970! Another little girl, in Atlanta, had her skull fractured in 30 places by a foul ball.

Ten of the 30 big-league stadiums have extended their protective netting. Why not all 30? Because the commissioner hasn’t made it a priority. This could have been fixed years ago. And before it wasn’t Manfred’s priority, it wasn’t Bud Selig’s priority, either.

Make the extended netting mandatory, dammit.

Or, maybe this: For any owners who refuse to extend the safety netting at their ballparks, make it mandatory for the owners to come down to the stands and personally carry off the 2-year-old girls who get hit in the head by a 105-mph baseball.

And then ask them about sight lines or how the nets obstruct the views.

You see the reactions from the Yankees and Twins after Frazier’s foul ball went into the stands. Matt Holliday had to wipe away tears. Eduardo Escobar had his hands on his head, a pained look on his face. Frazier went down to one knee and bowed his head. Nearly every player in the Twins’ dugout stood on the top step; they couldn’t bear to look, but they couldn’t bear to look away, either, hoping for a sign that the youngster might somehow be OK.

After the game, veteran Twins second baseman Brian Dozier didn’t mince words.

“Either, one: You don’t bring kids down there. Or Number Two: Every stadium needs to have nets. 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. I don’t know if you guys saw it, but I hope the kid’s OK. We need nets. Or don’t put kids down there.”

It’s great to hear Dozier and other players speak out so strongly. But it’s embarrassing for baseball that they need to. It’s not like this was some freak thing that never has happened before and probably won’t happen again. This is a constant reality at every baseball game without the extended netting.

It’s ridiculous.

On Thursday, The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal posted a statement from Manfred on his Facebook page: “The events at yesterday’s game involving a young girl were extremely upsetting for everyone in our game. Over the past few seasons MLB has worked with our clubs to expand the amount of netting in our ballparks. In light of yesterday’s event, we will redouble our efforts on this important issue.”

“Working with clubs” clearly hasn’t worked. Make it mandatory for every stadium, starting next spring.

Before my coffee shop baseball buddy left this morning, I asked whether he minded if I wrote about our conversation.

“Not at all,” he said. “They need to do something about it.”

Yes, they do. They really damn do.

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