Extended netting ready and waiting for White Sox’ next homestand
Crews were expected to complete extended protective netting at Guaranteed Rate Field on Wednesday that will run from the end of each dugout to the foul poles.
Crews were expected to complete the majority of the installation for additional protective netting Wednesday at Guaranteed Rate Field that will extend from the ends of each dugout to the foul poles on each side of the field.
The Sox said the netting will be in place when the team returns to Guaranteed Rate Field on July 22 to host the Marlins. The Sox open play after the All-Star break with a 10-game road trip.
The netting will be in use for the first time at the Sox’ annual Double Duty Classic, an all-star game for top local high school players July 17.
The Sox will be the first team to extend netting to the foul poles.
“We are always focused on the ballpark experience for our fans, and, of course, safety is a big part of that consideration,” Scott Reifert, Sox vice president for communications, said Wednesday. “Research into this step goes back months, but [chairman] Jerry Reinsdorf and [Illinois Sports Facility Authority chairman] Manny Sanchez talked about this in mid-June and quickly agreed that extending the protective netting was the right step to take for the ballpark and our team. The game changes, the fan experience constantly changes and we need to evolve, as well.”
To protect fans from foul balls, every team extended the netting to the end of each dugout before the 2018 season. Going beyond that, however, was left up to each franchise.
Calls for more fan safety increased after a young girl was struck by a foul ball off the bat of Cubs outfielder Albert Almora on May 29 at Minute Maid Park in Houston. A woman was bloodied and taken to a hospital after being hit by a foul ball off the bat of Sox outfielder Eloy Jimenez on June 10 at Guaranteed Rate Field.
‘‘It keeps people safe; it’s a smart move,’’ Sox All-Star right-hander Lucas Giolito said recently. ‘‘I hate seeing young kids get hit and having to go to the hospital.’’
Players have long called for more protection. An informal fan poll Wednesday and Thursday on Twitter showed 86 percent of more than 1,500 responses favored the measure.
“How is [netting] bad?” was one reply. “I sat behind the Sox’ dugout last year and never even noticed the netting after about two minutes. And it will cut down the chances of somebody getting killed. The players are in favor of.”
Fans who object have expressed concerns about sight lines and limited access to players for autographs before games. But fans’ access won’t be closed off, Reifert said.
“The new design actually opens up the space closer to the dugout, so, yes, there will actually be more room right around the dugout [for autographs],” Reifert said.
The Pirates, Rangers and -Nationals also have announced they’ll extend their netting.
The Sun-Times first reported the Sox’ and the ISFA’s plans to extend the netting June 18.
NOTE: Sox probable pitchers for the series at Oakland (Friday through Sunday) and Kansas City (Monday through Thursday): -Friday, Ivan Nova; Saturday, TBA; Sunday, Reynaldo Lopez; Monday, Lucas Giolito; Tuesday, Dylan Cease; Wednesday, Nova; Thursday, TBA.
Dylan Covey (sore shoulder), who is close to completing a minor-league rehab assignment at Class AAA Charlotte, is one possibility on the open days.