Watching a baseball game will be safer in all main league ballparks during the 2018 season.
The Arizona Diamondbacks and the Tampa Bay Rays declared on Wednesday they would extend the careful netting behind the dugouts in their ballparks in time for opening day, meaning all 30 teams have decided to exceed the recommendations for enhanced security issued by Commissioner Rob Manfred in December 2015.
The announcement appear a day before Manfred was expected to issue a mandate at baseball’s quarterly owners meetings in Los Angeles that all teams must extend their netting to at least the far end of the dugouts by the starting of the coming season.
“Providing baseball fans with a variety of seating options when they appear to the ballpark, including seats behind protective netting, is essential,” Manfred said in a statement. “Major League Clubs are constantly evaluating the coverage and design of their ballpark netting and I am pleased that they are providing fans an incremented inventory of protected seats.”
A league agent said the announcements by the Diamondbacks and the Rays on Wednesday rendered a commissioner’s command unnecessary.
Major League Baseball’s previous recommendation in 2015, calling for all teams to extend their netting from the area behind home plate to the starting of each dugout, came in response to a serious head injury sustained by a fan at Fenway Park.
The movement to extend the netting achieved momentum when three fans were seriously injured at Yankee Stadium during the 2017 season.
In May, a young boy was hit in the head by the barrel of a crushed bat the flew into the stands just beyond the visitors’ dugout.
In July, a man was injured when a line drive hit by the Yankees’ Aaron Judge struck him in the head as he sat in a lower-level seat down the right-field line.
And in September, a 2-year-old girl suffered facial fractures when she was hit by a line drive off the bat of the Yankees’ Todd Frazier.
The last incident motivated the Yankees, who had been reluctant to extend their netting out of fear of alienating fans in their high-priced lower-level seats, to declare on the final day of the regular season that they would install extended netting for the begin of the 2018 season.
In January, the Yankees declared they would extend the careful netting beyond the league’s recommendation and into the outfield.
During the 2017 All-Star break, the Mets extended the netting at Citi Fielddown both foul lines.