Fans hit by foul balls lead to talks of extended nets

Fans hit by foul balls lead to talks of extended nets
The Mississippi Braves play the Biloxi Shuckers

JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - Everybody knows that sound: The baseball coming off the bat, HARD.

Recent incidents in which people have been hit by line-drive foul balls have put the attention back on safety nets. Just a few years ago, most professional baseball stadiums extended their nets to cover the area from the outside corner of the home dugout to the outside corner of the away dugout.

“After some injuries from baseballs and bats that flew into the stands, it had to extend to the far end of both dugouts. Fans are creatures of habit and want to watch baseball a certain way, and there was a little pushback at first," said Mississippi Braves general manager Pete Laven. "But it was almost immediately the realization took place that the precaution was good for the game and they got used to that almost immediately so that wasn’t too big of a transition for the fans. They got accustomed to it pretty quick.”

A woman was hit at the Chicago White Sox game on Monday, and about two weeks ago a young girl was hit during a Chicago Cubs and Houston Astros game in Houston. In both cases, the spectators were sitting just beyond the dugout, which gives traction to the argument that there should be netting all the way down the stands.

“It’s just the velocity with pitchers throwing harder than ever, the ball coming off the bat will be harder than ever…. Exit velocity can be 110 mph coming off the bat," Laven said. "If you’re not behind the netting, be watching every pitch, and parents with children need to understand to watch the line drives for their children.”

But what does that do to that old tradition of bringing your glove and waiting fervently to fight other spectators for that foul ball?

“If the net was extended further there’s still ample opportunity to catch a foul ball, because it can always go over the net, they could catch home runs," said Laven. "We have a 360 degree concourse.”

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