U.S.A. (NBC)(12/12/19)— As of the 2020 season, every Major League Baseball (MLB) team will be expanding their netting to protect fans from foul balls.
This move comes after growing concerns about fans being injured, and in some cases even killed, by foul balls.
According to an NBC News investigation in October, there have been at least 808 reports of injuries to fans from baseballs from 2012 to 2019, including concussions and permanent vision loss.
In one case in 2018, a grandmother celebrating her 79th birthday at Dodgers Stadium in Los Angeles died after getting hit in the head by a foul ball.
After inquiries by NBC News, the Philadelphia Phillies announced in October that they would add netting down to the foul poles, joining the Chicago White Sox and the Atlanta Braves as the first teams to have protective netting reach that far.
According to Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred, for the 2020 season, all 30 major league teams will extend their protective netting to reach substantially past the dugouts, with seven or eight stadiums extending it all the way to the foul poles.
Manfred also stated that some stadiums are designed in ways that create difficulties to run netting that far, but even in those stadiums, the netting will be extended well beyond the current boundaries.
Data compiled for NBC News by the Elias Sports Bureau shows an increase in foul balls of 10% since 2000. These balls can fly off the bat at over 100 miles an hour and strike a fan just a mere second later.
Though most injuries come from foul balls, some occur from home runs and batting practice as well.
“There was no rule passed or anything like that. We just went out, talked to the clubs, made the case that extending the netting was the thing to do, and the clubs responded individually in a positive way.”Rob Manfred, Baseball Commissioner
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