The netting will extend all the way to the foul ball posts at Camden Yards. courtesy Camden Chat

Orioles reignite old debate about stadium netting

Baseball journalist Hannah Robbins weighs in on the national debate regarding protective nets and their role in the stadium.

In baseball, reading the fine print might be more important than one would expect. When a fan purchases a ticket to see a game, according to the fine print, they accept all risks inherent to the game. Called the Baseball Rule, this means fans cannot sue if something happens to them in the stadium. Most people would brush that off; baseball is not that dangerous. But spectators forget one thing: balls and bats do not always fly in the correct direction.

In the past few years, several fans have been injured, including an incident where Albert Almora’s line drive hit a four-year-old girl, causing her to suffer a fractured skull, brain bleeding and severe seizures. Another instance occurred in Aug. 2018 when a 79-year-old woman was killed after being hit in the head by a ball in the Dodgers Stadium.

In Feb. 2018, Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred’s ordered the protective nets extended to the dugouts, but some teams have pushed for further coverage.

This week the Baltimore Orioles joined the Toronto Blue Jays, Chicago White Sox, Washington Nationals, Texas Rangers, Houston Astros and Los Angeles Dodgers, who have all decided that the net should cover the entire length from home plate to the foul pole lines.

This prevents all fans from possibly being hit with a quirky wayward ball by essentially putting a net between every fan’s seat and the field.

This decision is not without its critics. Some critics say that spectators have a difficult time seeing past the net, making it a better experience to watch the game on television than purchase tickets to see the game live.

As someone who normally sits behind home plate when watching baseball games, I have never had issues with visibility with the netting.

Other fans lament the lost experience. By putting a net between all fans and the field, it is impossible to catch a pop fly. When children come to the stadium with their gloves, hopeful they will be the one to catch the wayward ball, there will be something lost.

Baseball, more than most sports, has an exceedingly strong sense of community.. If you somehow catch a football, you have to throw it back, but a baseball you can keep.

There is still the area past second base, where a lucky kid could catch a home run, but those are rare, and the practice of bringing a glove to the game would be lost. However, this idealized memory does not even consider flying bats or balls skyrocketing toward unsuspecting individuals at 110 mph or more, and most sports fans agree.

In a survey by ESPN, 78 percent of respondents agree that netting is a good idea, an overwhelming majority. While this survey does not discuss how much or where the netting would be, it is still seen by most people as a plus to keep people safe, and slowly but surely
the teams are moving in the same direction.

The Orioles move to extend their protective netting this week brought back up an argument that quickly is becoming obsolete: is safety more important than a chance to catch a ball or a pristine view of the field?

Absolutely, especially when baseball would otherwise be on the route to being too unsafe to be America’s pastime.

Post Author: Hannah Robbins