The Arizona Diamondbacks announced that the netting at Chase Field will be extended to the far end of each dugout for the 2018 regular season. The team has worked diligently during the offseason to ensure that the extensions, which have become commonplace throughout Major League Baseball, will have limited effect on the fan experience while maximizing safety.
“We have long prided ourselves on providing the most fan-friendly environment in all of sports and at the top of those priorities is safety,” said D-backs President & CEO Derrick Hall. “Thousands of the best seats in the ballpark behind home plate have always been behind a protective net with no impact to the fan experience and we expect that those who will now have a similar view will find that the same holds true for them.”
The D-backs were the first to extend their netting to the home plate end of each dugout and are working with several companies on the latest technologies that allow the new net to be knotless and therefore, more transparent. In addition, the club will seek to ensure that a similar amount of baseballs that would have previously been souvenirs for fans in the stands, either through foul balls or those tossed by the players, will be distributed during the game.
This has long been the topic of debate, particularly after a 2015 incident at Fenway Park where a woman was seriously injured by a shattered bat. MLB sent out a memo prior to the following season, encouraging teams to expand the area covered, and about one-third of teams had already extended the netting to cover a greater area. But the impetus for change seems to have increased significantly after an incident at Yankee Stadium last September. A line-drive foul off the bat of Todd Frazier drilled right into the face of a one-year-old girl in the stands, the third incident at the park that season. She suffered multiple facial fractures and spent five days in hospital.
Shortly after, the D-backs said in a statement, “Fan safety is our top priority. In 2016, we proactively expanded our netting and will continue to work with Major League Baseball to determine the best plan of action for keeping the safety of our fans as our top priority, while still providing an enjoyable fan experience.” It appears that led to today’s announcement. Personally, I sadly acknowledge the need for the measure, in an environment where some fans (Mrs. SnakePit among them!) seem to spend half the game checking their phone. Though I do wonder about the wisdom of taking a one-year-old to seats which were obviously located in an a high-velocity area.