MLB has just issued its “plan” for extended safety netting. The press release is as follows:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – December 9, 2015
MLB ISSUES FAN SAFETY RECOMMENDATIONS
Fan Safety Initiative Leads to New Netting Recommendations for Next Year
The Office of the Commissioner of Baseball has issued recommendations to all 30 Major League Clubs aimed at enhancing the safety of fans attending Major League Baseball games, while also preserving the interactive elements that are integral to the baseball fan experience.
The recommendations — which resulted from a review that began earlier this summer — include the following:
- Clubs are encouraged to implement or maintain netting (or another effective protective screen or barrier of their choosing) that shields from line-drive foul balls all field-level seats that are located between the near ends of both dugouts (i.e., the ends of the dugouts located closest to home plate, inclusive of any adjacent camera wells) and within 70 feet of home plate. The Commissioner’s Office has retained a consultant specializing in stadium architecture and protective netting to assist interested Clubs in implementing this recommendation.
- Although Clubs already provide warnings to fans about the dangers posed by batted balls and bats entering the stands and the need to pay attention to the action on the field during each at-bat, the Commissioner’s Office recommends that Clubs continue to explore ways to educate their fans on these issues and is providing Clubs with resources to assist them in this area.
- The Commissioner’s Office will be working with the Clubs and online ticketing sellers to identify ways to provide customers with additional information at the point of sale about which seats are (and are not) behind netting.
Commissioner Robert D. Manfred, Jr. said: “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. 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.
“I am confident that this recommendation will result not only in additional netting at Major League ballparks but also draw additional attention to the need for fans who make the choice not to sit behind netting to be prepared for the possibility of foul balls and bats entering the stands.”
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This plan is, of course, totally inadequate. Not only is safety netting not extended far enough, it is not even required. I’m sad to say I’m not surprised by this response to fan injuries. MLB won’t make any significant changes until it starts losing some lawsuits. As long as baseball continues to receive near blanket protection under the antiquated “assumption of risk” doctrine, it has no real incentive to do anything more. Let’s just hope no one has to die before organized ball gets serious about the problem of fan safety.