December 16, 2015

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) The Minnesota Twins will add protective netting above the dugouts at Target Field for 2016, following Major League Baseball's recent safety recommendations for some of the most expensive and most exposed seats at the ballpark.

The Twins already complied with MLB's standard of netting between the dugouts for field-level seats within 70 feet of home plate. They announced Wednesday they will literally go above and beyond that: The lower-level seats in Minnesota are closer to home plate than in any other MLB venue, so the organization decided to hang protective netting that will run the length of both dugouts and extend about 7 feet high.

''Based on the proximity of those seats, the reaction time above our dugouts, particularly in those first few rows, is quite limited,'' Twins President Dave St. Peter said.

Snagging a foul ball has long been one of the most relished experiences of attending a game, but not if it hurts, or worse. Last week at the winter meetings, MLB laid out the new guidelines that were prompted by a season during which several fans were injured by foul balls. Up-close seats are pricey because of the proximity to the action, so there's an inherent tension between the fan's experience and safety.

Especially these days, with ubiquitous mobile devices that distract from the action on the field.

''It was a very difficult decision because we understand the importance of the accessibility of players and our game for our fans and we're sensitive to fans deliberately not wanting to sit behind a net,'' St. Peter said. ''It impacts a relatively small amount of fans. That said, those fans are in many cases long-standing season-ticket holders and some of our most passionate, valued accounts.''

For 2016, the dugout box seats that carry the greatest risk for being hit by foul balls at Target Field cost $74 per game in a full season-ticket package.

The Twins said the new netting will be minimally obtrusive for fans behind it, taking advantage of the technology available to create a see-through material that's still safe. St. Peter encouraged ticket buyers to see what the view will be like before deciding where to sit, or not sit. The Twins have begun communicating with season-ticket holders most affected by the change.

''Ultimately we believe that most of those fans will be accustomed to the net and ultimately will become appreciative of the net over the long haul,'' St. Peter said. ''The most expensive and the most sought-after place in our ballpark, the Champions Club, has always looked through a net.''

The Twins also announced a plan to implement an enhanced plan to warn fans about the danger of balls and bats flying into the seats and the importance of paying attention to the action during each at-bat.

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