The Los Angeles Dodgers have twice extended the netting at Dodger Stadium and now are poised to do so a third time as MLB deals with increasing pressure to better protect fans. One day after an incident at Dodger Stadium, president and CEO Stan Kasten confirmed action was ahead.
“Fan safety is of the utmost importance to the Dodgers and during the offseason, we began the process of studying how the netting at Dodger Stadium could be configured to provide better protection for our fans,” the Dodgers later said in a statement.
“Once this study is completed, the team will implement the recommended changes and extend the netting at Dodger Stadium. The team will provide more information on the project timeline and scope when available.”
The Dodgers first took action prior to the 2016 season and in accordance with recommendations from commissioner Rob Manfred. The screen behind home plate at Dodger Stadium was extended to cover the seating area between the ends of the dugouts closest to home plate and within 70 feet of home plate.
Manfred’s suggestion to clubs came after a season in which multiple fans were injured or hospitalized due to broken bats and foul balls entering the stands — particularly field-level seating.
Then in February 2018, the Dodgers extended netting to the ends of each dugout, both at Dodger Stadium and Camelback Ranch. All club’s were expected to comply with the league’s directive by the start of the 2019 season.
Now, the Chicago White Sox, Detroit Tigers, Texas Rangers and Washington Nationals are among teams that recently committed to extending protective nettings all the way down or close to the foul poles at their respective home stadiums.
A fan who was struck by a foul ball at Dodger Stadium last year tragically passed away, which presumably spurred the organization to begin the process of evaluating improvements over the winter.
Cody Bellinger was visibly impacted by watching his line drive strike a fan in the head, and acknowledged change was necessary. “I would assume that would be a smart decision,” he said of potentially expanding the netting at Dodger Stadium.
“Just to protect those people in the front row who don’t have enough reaction time. I mean, I’m over at first base and have to be ready. They’re 10 feet over from me. Yeah, maybe, just to protect the people in the first few rows. That’s a scary situation.”
Dodgers manager Dave Roberts added: “I think talks like that definitely need to intensify. For me, as we talk about getting ahead of things, I don’t see anything wrong with that idea.”