MLB & Fan Dangers: Is Protective Netting the Answer?

Posted on 08-15-2017 by
Tags: sports , athletics , baseball

baseball netting

Baseball and foulballs: Do the dangers mandate a transformation of America's game?


Violence in sports has never been more controversial than it is today. The difficult note on that debate often falls into whether or not the sport is inherently violent. Take football as an example. The inherently violent sport needs to take some steps into safety enhancements – e.g., better helmets to protect against concussions.

But should similar enhancements be demanded of baseball – an inherently non-violent sport?

Few would argue that baseball is a violent sport, especially in comparison to a sport like football, but there are still matters of safety being brought up in regard to Major League Baseball. This raises the question:

Do baseball dangers require fundamental changes to the game?

The “Baseball Rule”

There has been a proposed idea by Major League Baseball and its teams of extending the backstop netting down both baselines to help keep fans safe. This is in fear of how the “Baseball Rule” is interpreted.

The “Baseball Rule” states that stadium owners and operators aren’t responsible for fan injuries by balls or pieces of bats coming into the stands during play. This comes into play as long as there’s netting or screens protecting against a reasonable number of spectators. For the most part, the onus of being alert is on the fans.

Let me repeat that to be abundantly clear: the onus is on the fans.

baseball foul line

Based on this rule, fans, whether they are protected by the netting or not, must be responsible by staying alert in case something does come into the stands. That factors in both watching the game and not being inebriated.

Having said that, the rule is ambiguous because of what’s considered a reasonable number of spectators, which is where the promoters of the change have found the most strength to their argument.

A Line Drive’s Place in Baseball’s Future

Balls and bats normally find their way into the stands during a game. According to a recent study, the average baseball game has nearly 49 foul balls hit. The fact that a small percentage have caused injuries has caused Major League Baseball to consider the possibility of expanding the netting. Currently the netting rests only between home plate and the stands, from dugout to dugout.

I consider myself a baseball purist and I simply can’t imagine this addition to the game. In the end, it does change the fundamental nature of the game. Don’t expect to see any more catches like this: Or this: Both balls would have hit the netting before any play was made. In this scenario, the batter is no longer out, and the pitcher has to throw more pitches. Because of this, the outcome of the game can be drastically changed.

I beg teams not to go this direction. It’s legally unnecessary and fundamentally destructive to the game of baseball. It becomes a slippery slope of what else could be changed. If one potential danger could be targeted, then all of them can. What’s next: softer balls and softer bats?

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