Two senators send letter to MLB commissioner urging protective netting expansion

Protective netting at all ballparks was expanded in before the 2018 season by Major League Baseball and commissioner Rob Manfred, but after several recent foul ball injuries, two senators want Manfred to go farther.

Illinois senators Tammy Duckworth and Dick Durbin have sent a letter to Manfred, obtained by the Chicago Sun-Times, asking that all 30 MLB teams further extend the protective netting at their ballparks to prevent fans from being struck by foul balls. The letter was delivered Thursday, urging Manfred and all MLB teams to put fan safety first and install more netting before the end of the season. From the letter:

MLB and every team should expedite plans to extend netting to further protect fans. As several teams have demonstrated, these safety improvements don’t have to wait until next season.

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Players are hitting balls with a velocity of more than 100 miles per hour onto the field and into the seated areas. A Bloomberg analysis found nearly 1,800 people annually have suffered foul ball-related injuries while attending games. Extended netting could help prevent many of these injuries.

We appreciate the effort MLB and individual teams have taken so far for the safety of fans. However it is clear the current extended netting is not sufficient to protect fans from serious injury or death. We hope all teams will follow the leadership of the White Sox, Nationals, Dodgers, and Rangers in this matter.

HOUSTON, TEXAS - MAY 29: A young child is rushed from the stands after being hit by a hard foul ball off the bat of Albert Almora Jr. #5 of the Chicago Cubs in the fourth inning against the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park on May 29, 2019 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
HOUSTON, TEXAS - MAY 29: A young child is rushed from the stands after being hit by a hard foul ball off the bat of Albert Almora Jr. #5 of the Chicago Cubs in the fourth inning against the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park on May 29, 2019 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)

This call for action is in response to the scary incident that happened at the Houston Astros stadium on May 29. A foul ball hit by Chicago Cubs player Albert Almora Jr. struck a 2-year-old girl, who suffered a skull fracture and seizures as a result. Another fan was struck by a foul ball less than two weeks later at Guaranteed Rate Field in Chicago, and a third fan was struck at Dodger Stadium in late June.

The Astros have said they are still “studying” the netting issue, and despite the tragic accident that happened at their ballpark, will not make any changes to the protective netting at Minute Maid Park until after the season. But several teams have already announced plans to extend the netting to the far right and left corners of their ballparks, with several set to happen before the season is over. The Chicago White Sox, Washington Nationals, Texas Rangers, and Los Angeles Dodgers have announced netting extensions in the past several weeks, and the Pittsburgh Pirates announced their plans on Thursday.

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