The Chicago White Sox are taking a huge step toward increased fan safety at the ballpark and extending the protective netting at Guaranteed Rate Field. They are the first professional baseball team to do so after years of outrage regarding fans getting hit by hard-hit foul balls. The netting, which typically extends past the dugout, will expand the reach all the way down the line and hinder the near-constant barrage of fans getting hit by baseballs every year. The Texas Rangers also vowed to add more netting, but the White Sox lead the way in that department among MLB teams.
Support and resistance
Fan safety seems like a no-brainer for a professional sports league, but many resisted more netting, saying that it ruins the in-game experience for people who bring gloves to games with hopes of catching a foul ball. However, an ESPN survey says that most fans agree that the time is now to get the ball rolling on safety precautions.
The issue even reached Capitol Hill, with two Illinois senators, Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth, calling on Major League Baseball to extend the netting across the league. The problem of fan injury has always been out there, but two recent incidents brought the need for more netting back into the headlines. The White Sox are the first team to make sure more headline-grabbing accidents don’t happen at their ballpark.
Minute Maid Park
A young girl was struck by a ball in Houston after a foul ball by the Cubs Albert Almora Jr. flew off his bat and into the crowd. A father rushed his girl out of the ballpark as onlookers gasped. Unsure of what to do, Almora Jr. broke down right there on the field. The girl suffered a fractured skull and had a seizure. As of late June, the child was still recovering.
A pair of incidents at Dodger Stadium
Several weeks after the Houston incident, a fan at Dodger Stadium was hit in the head by a foul ball. Seated along the first base line, Kaitlyn Salazar was enjoying the game when a ball was hit off of Cody Bellinger’s bat and hit her directly in the head. Although her injuries proved to be less severe than the child from Houston, Salazar spoke about how scary it was to see the ball flying toward her without time to react.
Bellinger immediately checked on Salazar and continued to do so until she finally decided to leave after experiencing pain in her head, and went to the hospital for precautionary reasons.
It was the second incident to make headlines in recent years. The Dodgers failed to reveal that an elderly fan who was struck in the head at a 2018 game eventually died from a brain hemorrhage caused by blunt force trauma.
The death was not due to a lack of netting, but the revelation that the Dodgers hid the outcome caused controversy, and the family called for increased safety regulations at the ballpark.
What next for MLB teams?
With several teams announcing that they were open to increased safety at the ballpark, now we wait and see how seriously they take these incidents. While bringing a glove to the game to catch a fly ball is part of the tradition, the safety of the fans should always trump tradition.
Until the netting is up, fans have reason to keep calling for action with both the MLB and the individual teams. Hopefully, more teams other than the White Sox and the Rangers will take these precautions, but with those two teams getting the ball rolling, more teams may come out of the woodwork and make sure that the baseball stadium is a place of fun and competition, not a danger to the lives of fans.