SAN DIEGO — Major League Baseball will have expanded netting in place for next season at all 30 ballparks, commissioner Rob Manfred announced on Wednesday.
The extent of the expansion will vary by ballpark, according to Manfred, but all netting will at minimum extend “substantially beyond” the far end of the dugout on both sides of the field.
“Seven clubs will have netting that extends all the way to the foul pole,” Manfred said. “Fifteen additional clubs are expanding netting for the 2020 season. There is some variation in this group of 15, but, in general, they are extending netting past the end of the dugout to the elbow in the outfield where the stands begin to angle away from the field of play.”
Questions about fan safety related to hard-hit foul balls reached a crescendo this season after a young girl was struck by a foul ball off the bat of the Cubs’ Albert Almora Jr. at Minute Maid Park in Houston on May 29. However, concerns over the issue have existed for years and continued throughout last season after similar incidents.
On June 18, the White Sox became the first club to extend netting all the way to the foul poles. Shortly after, a poll conducted by ESPN found that the majority of fans (78 percent) were in favor of expanded netting. However, Manfred emphasized that it’s not currently feasible for the netting to extend to the foul poles in every venue.
“Some of you have heard me talk about structural limitations in ballparks,” Manfred said. “This is one of them. With an elbow like I’ve described, it’s very difficult to extend netting all the way to the foul pole because you need to run cables over what would be inside the field of play. The data does show that the risk of foul balls is less when you get out past these elbows. And, again, the stands begin to angle way from the field of play.
“The remaining eight clubs have installed netting that extends substantially beyond the far end of the dugout, and obviously they will continue in that mode for next year.”