Major League Baseball has recommended teams have protective netting between the dugouts for any field-level seats within 70 feet of home plate.
The guidelines were issued Wednesday at the winter meetings following a season in which several fans were injured by foul balls, prompting MLB to study fan safety.
Commissioner Rob Manfred said, “It is important that fans have the option to sit behind protective netting or in other areas of the ballpark where foul balls and bats are less likely to enter.”
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“This recommendation,” he said, “attempts to balance the need for an adequate number of seating options with our desire to preserve the interactive pregame and in-game fan experience that often centers around the dugouts, where fans can catch foul balls, see their favorite players up close and, if they are lucky, catch a tossed ball or other souvenir.”
A 2014 Bloomberg News report found that nearly 1,750 fans are injured every year by foul balls.
In a news release from MLB, it said the commissioner’s office has retained a consultant specializing in stadium architecture and protective netting to assist interested clubs in implementing this recommendation. The Royals have not said what action they will take, but the unaffiliated minor-league T-Bones franchise announced there would be extended netting next season at CommunityAmerica Ballpark in Kansas City, Kan.
Additionally, the release said that while teams “provide warnings to fans about the dangers posed by batted balls and bats entering the stands and the need to pay attention to the action on the field during each at-bat, the Commissioner’s Office recommends that Clubs continue to explore ways to educate their fans on these issues and is providing Clubs with resources to assist them in this area.”
The commissioner’s office will work with each team and “online ticketing sellers to identify ways to provide customers with additional information at the point of sale about which seats are (and are not) behind netting.”