June 27, 2019

Durbin, Duckworth send letter to commissioner Rob Manfred urging MLB to expand protective netting

Source: Chicago Sun-Times


After a series of incidents in which fans have been struck by foul balls, ballpark safety has become a key concern. Now, two United States senators representing Illinois are joining the discussion by sending a letter to Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred calling for all 30 teams to extend protective netting down the right- and left-field corners.

The letter — obtained exclusively by the Chicago Sun-Times — comes one day after new details emerged on the injuries suffered by a 2-year-old girl who was hit by Cubs outfielder Albert Almora’s foul ball last month in Houston.

“Cleary, more needs to be done to put the safety of fans first,” Democratic senators Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth wrote in the letter delivered to Manfred on Thursday.

With players hitting balls with exit velocities topping off at more than 100 mph, the two senators cited a Bloomberg analysis, which found that nearly 1,800 fans suffer foul ball-related injuries while attending games each season.

“Extended netting could help prevent many of these injuries,” they wrote.

U.S. Sens. Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth sent a joint letter Thursday to MLB commissioner Rob Manfred urging the league to expand its protective nettings from foul pole to foul pole at all 30 ballparks. 
Sun-Times Media

MLB already had mandated netting be extended to the end of dugouts before the 2018 season. The girl in Houston, who is recovering at home after suffering a skull fracture and seizure from the incident, was sitting on the lap of a family member just beyond the netting along the third-base line.

Since the Sun-Times report, the Washington Nationals, Texas Rangers and Pittsburgh Pirates have revealed similar plans to extend netting to the right- and left-field corners. Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Dodgers said they plan to conduct a study before completing a new protective strategy.

“We appreciate the efforts MLB and individual teams have taken so far for the safety of fans,” Durbin and Duckworth wrote. “However, it is clear the current extended netting is not sufficient to protect fans from serious injury or death. We hope all teams will follow the leadership of the White Sox, Nationals, Dodgers, and Rangers in this matter.”

By:  Madeline Kenney