The Office of the Commissioner of Baseball issued three recommendations for all 30 teams aimed at enhancing the safety of fans in attendance at games.
The recommendations stem from a review that started earlier in the summer.
“Major League Baseball prides itself on providing fans in our ballparks with unparalleled proximity and access to our players and the game taking place on the field,” commissioner Rob Manfred said in a statement. “At the same time, it is important that fans have the option to sit behind protective netting or in other areas of the ballpark where foul balls and bats are less likely to enter. This recommendation attempts to balance the need for an adequate number of seating options with our desire to preserve the interactive pre-game and in-game fan experience that often centers around the dugouts, where fans can catch foul balls, see their favorite players up close and, if they are lucky, catch a tossed ball or other souvenir.”
After a season in which numerous fans were hit by balls and bats flying into the stands, causing a few serious injuries, teams and owners have suggested increasing the protective netting that usually just hangs behind the backstop.
Clubs are now encouraged to install netting, or any screen of their choosing, that would shield fans from line-drive foul balls at all field-level seats that would be located near the ends of the visitor and home team dugouts closes to home plate. The Commissioner's Office is reviewing plans with a consultant that specializes in stadium architecture and protective netting to assist teams in making the changes.
Teams and online ticket sellers will find a way to alert customers which seats will be behind netting.
MLB would also like for teams to explore more ways to educate fans on the dangers posed by batted balls and bats that enter the stands in addition to their warning announcements.
MLB chief baseball officer Joe Torre also announced that the league is working on a rule change to protect players sliding into second base.
- Christopher Chavez