I have good news for anyone who doesn’t like the idea of ending up with a mashed-in face: Major League Baseball plans to change its recommendations on safety netting at stadiums in 2016.
Commissioner Rob Manfred wasn’t big on specifics with the recommendations Thursday, but here’s hoping the proposals include netting that protects spectators sitting near the dugouts and beyond.
Why MLB has allowed foul balls to come rocketing into the seats in those areas is almost beyond comprehension. There were several high-profile cases of fans getting hit last season, including one at Wrigley Field, and it always feels like a matter of time before someone gets killed.
Yes, netting might affect the view of some fans but so does blindness caused by a ball arriving at orbital bones at 100 m.p.h. The people sitting behind home plate seem to be able to see the game just fine through netting. Same for NHL fans sitting behind the goals and in the corners. Expand the netting at MLB ballparks from first base to third base.
The cynic in me says that baseball simply is tired of being sued by fans who have been seriously hurt at ballparks. Actually, the optimist in me agrees. But it doesn’t really matter what the impetus for change is if it means fans being protected from bats and balls flying into the stands.
“In addition to a recommendation on the physical location of nets, there will be a broad fan education component to the program,’’ Manfred said.
“Fan education’’ hasn’t worked yet, so don’t expect it to now. People are distracted by conversation and their smart phones. And even if they are paying attention to the game, most people lack the reflexes to get out of the way of a Kyle Schwarber line shot.
Protect the people with netting. They’re not equipped to protect themselves.