All 30 Major League Baseball teams will have protective netting extended beyond the minimum requirements in 2018.
On Tuesday, the Arizona Diamondbacks and the Tampa Bay Rays announced they will be extending netting to the length of each dugout to protect fans from foul balls. With both team's announcements, all 30 teams have now decided to extend the netting beyond the minimum requirements set in place by the MLB.
We're expanding the protective netting at both Tropicana Field and Charlotte Sports Park this season.
INFO // https://t.co/uxpro2AxYC pic.twitter.com/gEA4v0pRC1
— Tampa Bay Rays (@RaysBaseball) January 31, 2018
#Dbacks announce changes to the netting at Chase Field. pic.twitter.com/NP8ROBEP6D
— Arizona Diamondbacks (@Dbacks) January 31, 2018
"Providing baseball fans with a variety of seating options when they come to the ballpark, including seats behind protective netting, is important,” MLB commissioner Robert Manfred said in a statement to the New York Daily News. “Major League Clubs are constantly evaluating the coverage and design of their ballpark netting and I am pleased that they are providing fans an increased inventory of protected seats."
In 2015, MLB issued an official recommendation that teams should lengthen the amount of seats protected by netting.
The change has been prompted by a number of high-profile incidents in which fans have been injured by bats or balls flying into the stands. Last season, a young girl was hospitalized after she was struck by a 105-mph foul ball at Yankee Stadium in New York. In 2015, a woman suffered life-threatening injuries and had to be carried out of Boston's Fenway Park when she was hit by a broken bat that went into the stands.
Critics of the extended netting argue that the added protection would take away from the intimacy of MLB ballparks that limit interactions with players.
Alex Hider is a writer for the E.W. Scripps National Desk. Follow him on Twitter @alexhider.