It was just a few weeks ago that Chicago Cubs outfielder Albert Almora Jr. hit a foul ball into the stands that struck and hospitalized a four-year old child.
Now, the Chicago White Sox and Washington Nationals are taking action after fans have advocated for changes to be made.
On Tuesday, Daryl Van Schouwen of the Chicago Sun-Times was first to report that the White Sox are extending their protective netting throughout the full length of the foul lines. The team intends to make the addition this summer.
As Van Schouwen wrote, the White Sox plan to “extend the protective netting at Guaranteed Rate Field down the lines to the foul poles as soon as possible.” This news makes the White Sox the first of 30 Major League teams to extend the netting all the way down to the corner of the outfield, leaving only the home run territory unprotected.
Cubs fan Jay Loos, who lost sight in one eye after being struck with a ball in 2017, applauds the White Sox’s effort to preserve fans’ safety. “I’m an advocate of fan safety based on my experience. I was really pleased; very, very pleased. To come out like that, just class organization comes to mind when I think about that; to want to protect the fans, to do what’s right to protect the fans,” he said.
Just today, the Nationals also took action, announcing they will be extending protective netting down the majority of the foul lines, leaving just a small section near the outfield fence unprotected. Managing Principal Owner and Vice Chairman Mark Lerner made the announcement.
“Today, we announced additional protective netting will be installed at Nationals Park during the All-Star break,” Lerner said. “Ultra Cross Knotless Dyneema protective netting will be installed, replacing the existing netting, and extend to just short of the right and left field corners (see image here). Knotless netting offers a higher degree of transparency than the traditional knotted netting. The netting will be designed so that certain sections over each dugout can be raised pregame to foster fan interactions with players.
“Over the past few weeks, we have seen several fans injured by bats and balls leaving the field of play at other stadiums. I could not help but become emotional last month watching the Astros-Cubs game when a four-year-old little girl was hit by a line drive. I can’t imagine what her parents must have felt in that moment. And to see the raw emotion and concern from Albert Almora Jr. was heartbreaking. Further extending the netting at Nationals Park will provide additional protection for our fans.”
The Athletic’s Levi Weaver reported back in May that the Texas Rangers will also have extended netting at the new Globe Life Field that will be ready for next season. This netting is expected to stretch as far down the foul line as it will at the Nationals’ stadium: at the point where the final stretch of stands juts out.
Got confirmation from a Rangers exec this afternoon: in the new Globe Life Field (opening next year), nets will be extended to about here: pic.twitter.com/38T9paO98z— Levi Weaver (@ThreeTwoEephus) May 31, 2019
It’s great to see the White Sox, Nationals, and Rangers implement this new form of protection to help preserve a positive viewing experience for fans; they deserve an applause for their quick work and readiness to take action. But this situation can’t truly be considered solved or finished until all 27 other teams follow suit.