Royals fans will see changes at Kauffman Stadium that go beyond a World Series championship flag and some championship-logo signage when the regular-season begins.
Netting which once stretched from one set of dugout steps to the other, separating the stands from the game action, will be extended before opening day to reach past each dugout.
In December, Major League Baseball recommended that all teams lengthen the safety netting at their stadiums to increase fan safety. Those safety concerns were underscored by a frightening incident in the Grapefruit League last weekend.
Only a father’s lightning-fast reflexes saved his son from being hit in the face by a bat that went helicoptering into the stands along the first-base line during a game between the Braves and Pirates.
Fans know that the extended netting is likely to obstruct their view in some of Kauffman’s most desirable seats.
“It probably will,” said Vivian Sasser of Kansas City, who was attending the Royals game in Surprise on Tuesday and had seen photos of the near-disaster at Atlanta’s spring facility near Orlando, Fla.
“It’s a safety issue,” said Sasser, who attends several games a year at Kauffman Stadium. “It’s probably worth making the change.”
Frank Tolen laughed about the dilemma, saying that he rarely has seats that close to the field when he attends Royals games at Kauffman, anyway.
But he agreed it makes sense to extend the protective netting.
“From what I saw last year, it looks like a wise idea,” Tolen said. “I saw bats flying into the stands and people getting hurt at other ballparks, too. So I think it’s a good idea.”
Tim Mower was attending the game with his son and said they get to quite a few Royals games in Kansas City.
He wasn’t concerned about the change, noting it’s not a problem for those who already sit behind the backstop.
“I think it’ll improve safety for everybody,” Mower said. “I don’t think it actually interferes with your viewing of the game itself.
“We sat behind home plate the other day at the Angels game, and we didn’t have any problem watching the ball game behind the net. We’re sitting behind the net (here) and it shouldn’t matter.”
Cuyler Meade is a senior in the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.