Multiple news outlets, including ESPN.com, reported this week that all 30 Major League Baseball (“MLB”) parks will extend their protective netting beyond where they currently sit as of the end of the 2019 season.
While at the Winter Meetings, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred, told reporters that the netting at all ballpark stadiums will extend beyond the duguouts (where the teams sit), but that each stadium will be different. “Seven clubs will have netting that extends all the way to the foul pole,” Manfred said. “Fifteen additional clubs are expanding netting for the 2020 season. There is some variation in this group of 15, but, in general, they are extending netting past the end of the dugout to the elbow in the outfield where the stands begin to angle away from the field of play.”
The Chicago White Sox were the first team to extend netting all the way to the outfield foul poles, which essentially protects all fans on the lower level from foul balls and broken bats that inadvertently fly in the stands.
There have been calls from the media and fans to extend netting at all the ballparks after a series of fan injuries, including the serious injury to a young girl this past season in Houston. MLB is doing the right thing in this situation. I have discussed on this blog in the past that Courts throughout the country have rarely held the MLB or individual teams liable for fan injuries from fly balls. This has been referred to in common law as the baseball rule which says that fans by buying a ticket they are assuming the risk that they could be injured at a game by a ball or a bat flying into the stands. I have criticized this rule over and over again because as the injuries continued, many teams were reluctant to expand their protective netting. The MLB, which knows they probably won’t be held liable in court, is still doing the right thing by expanding the netting at all the stadiums.
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