Expanded Safety Netting in MLB Stadiums
Hello I am TJ Baker, and I am here to talk to you about a topic of recent discussion: Major League Baseball’s recommendation on the extension of protective netting in its stadiums. Due to the ever-present dangers of spectating a sporting event, especially one with fast moving objects such as baseball, the MLB has finally decided to address the issue regarding a lack of spectator safety, and the growing number of foul-ball related injuries by recommending teams increase and extend the protective netting in its ballparks; to increase the safety of its fans, and to minimize future injuries to fans/or avoid possible tragedy.
During your average regular season, Major League Game, there are about 40 foul balls between both teams.
In addition, there are 30 Major League teams that play a 162-game regular season schedule, which equates to 2430 regular season games (not including spring training and post season play).
If you do some quick number crunching, that comes out to about 97,200 total foul balls, per Major League regular season. That’s an outstanding number of balls out of play – ricocheting off seats, and scattering fans. Most of these foul balls create everlasting memories for those lucky enough to catch or corral them. However, sometimes these foul balls are not always all sunshine and rainbows….
During the 2016 regular season, the average velocity of a ball leaving the bat was 88.4 mph. In a quick comparison, the speed limit on most highways is about 65 mph, more than 20 mph slower than the average batted ball. We all know how little reaction time you have driving on the freeway, imagine how much more that changes when you add 20 more mph.
This diagram shows the basic protective netting that currently exists in all MLB stadiums (in blue). Highlighted in yellow are the new protective netting measures recommended by Major League Baseball to all 30 teams – extensions to the ends of both dugouts, and anywhere within 70 feet of home plate (unfortunately this does not mean for the mound as well, coming from a pitcher). Some organizations already meet this benchmark, and most are considering extending their netting to the recommended distance or beyond.
Now you may wonder, why isn’t this decision a no brainer… why are teams even hesitating about increasing the safety of their ballparks? What is there even to consider as a consequence?
When in doubt, always follow the money…
As it turns out, safety comes at a price. Those seats affected by major league baseball’s recommendation are generally among the most expensive in the ballpark, and anything that obstructs their view could hinder the ability to sell them. Attendance is already a struggle in many places, and TV has made the living-room recliner one of the best seats to watch a game.
Baseball has also been known for its intimate aspect, where players and fans are so close to one another that they can easily interact, another thing other than view that protective netting obstructs.
So, while you would think the implementation of additional safety netting would pass with flying colours, teams (and fans) are still reluctant. Reluctant to change America’s pastime, a game that basks in the glory of its rich history. Reluctant to change fans, who for family generations have sat in the same seats, without an obstructed view, so close that they are engulfed in the feeling of actually being in the game. And finally, reluctant to throw millions of dollars in profits right down the drain.
Major League Baseball and its teams must start to make decisions on how to balance the safety vs profit issue. In my opinion, I think it is only a matter of time before major league baseball makes these changes mandatory in all stadiums. It comes down to one key point for me – you just can’t put a price on safety.
Players want to play the game more freely, without the fear of injuring fans and spectators. And owners/teams do not want the liability/lawsuits resulting from fans being injured by foul balls.
And I think eventually, the opponents of the extended netting will realize that baseball is still the same game, with or without the netting. It still packs the same excitement as it always has.
And also, its much more enjoyable to watch without that perpetual fear in the back of your mind, and makes the ballpark a much safer place for younger fans, and families to come together, and make memories that will never be forgotten.
Now Let’s play ball.
“NEW Ballpark Organ Music” – Anthony Ouradnik