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MLB recommends clubs extend netting in effort to improve fan safety

NASHVILLE, Tenn — Fan safety has become an increasingly important issue for Major League Baseball. In the past year, there have been multiple incidents where fans have been injured or hospitalized due to errant bats and balls.

Commissioner Rob Manfred has indicated in the past that he would look into new procedures to ensure fans feel safe at the park, and he rolled out some new recommendations concerning fan safety Wednesday. The main focus of that message involved Manfred encouraging clubs to add more protective netting at their parks.

Here is the relevant passage from the press release:

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.

On top of that, Manfred has recommended each club continues to find new ways to educate fans about the dangers of flying bats and balls, and will provide teams with resources to assist in this development. He would also like teams to make it more clear which seats will and won’t be behind protective netting during the online ticket buying process.

All three directives are a step in the right direction, but it’s fair to wonder whether Manfred and MLB went far enough. Manfred has the power to make every team implement these new measures, but instead decided making recommendations was the best option.

In fairness, a couple teams have already come out and said they will put Manfred’s suggestions into effect.

As our own Jeff Passan notes, he expects most, if not all, of the teams to follow suit soon. Shortly after MLB made the recommendations public, the Tampa Bay Rays and Boston Red Sox also announced they would comply.

Fan safety is clearly an important issue, and teams probably don’t want to go against the commissioner. Manfred is calling it a “recommendation,” but clubs are going to take that more seriously considering he’s the man in charge.

Still, it would be nice to see Manfred assert his full power here. But if all teams ultimately follow his lead, and fans are safer, the main goal will be accomplished. If certain clubs attempt to push back, it will be interesting to see whether Manfred decides to take more serious actions.

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