Extended Netting Can’t Come Soon Enough

A firsthand account of why it just makes sense

Matt Koll
July 08, 2019 - 3:02 pm
PNC Park

Josh Rowntree - 93.7 The Fan

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Related: Plans Already In The Works To Extend Netting At PNC Park

PITTSBURGH (93.7 The Fan) - I attended Sunday’s game at PNC Park, the final one before the All-Star break.

I was in section 105, along the first base line only a few rows back.

It had been a while since I sat that close to the field and for the first time in my life, having attended numerous games over the years, I was legitimately startled.

In the first inning, Bryan Reynolds smoked a ball but was too far out in front.

The foul ball went screaming through the air down the first base line, curving like a boomerang as it shot right into the row of seats I was sitting in, just a section or two to the left of me.

I jumped in my seat.

I heard the crack of the bat and by the time I even realized how close the ball was to our seats it had landed among the people to the sounds of “whoaaa!!” from everyone around. 

Immediately, those around the area stood up to check on the folks targeted by the baseball to see if they were OK.  Ushers came flying down the steps to check on them. I looked out to the field and Pirates first base coach Kimera Bartee, Brewers first baseman Jesus Aguilar and Adam Frazier who had just singled were looking into the crowd.

There were probably more players who took an extended look at what was going on.

Everyone held their breath for those few seconds until the PNC Park ushers held two thumbs up signaling that no one was seriously injured.

It certainly wasn’t the first time I had seen a foul ball rocket into the stands but served as a not-so-friendly confirmation: Netting needs to be extended down the baselines ASAP.

There’s just no way, even if you were locked into the action, that you could have caught that foul ball. I don’t know the StatCast on it, but it had to come off the bat at close to, if not over 100 mph and with the sharp curve on it, it was nearly impossible to not only catch but to merely dodge out of its way to avoid serious injury.

Thankfully, no one was hurt. But people have been hurt many times, including a serious scare earlier this year in Houston that sent a 4-year-old girl to the hospital.  I don’t have children yet, but as it currently stands I’m not sure I would bring my kids that close to the field for a game.

MLB took a step in the right direction when it mandated every team and stadium to extend the netting beyond the dugouts but it’s time for more.

Make all the “pay attention to the game”, “get off your phone”, “put down your nachos” arguments you want. I grew up playing baseball. I’ve been around it all my life.

Nobody was safe on that foul ball yesterday.

The White Sox have already announced netting that will span foul pole to foul pole at Guaranteed Rate Field and the Nationals plan to extend the netting further down the baselines at their stadium during the All-Star break this week.

It shouldn’t take MLB long to make this mandatory across the league as well. The netting is thin and hardly intrusive to the game day experience. I’ve sat in seats that are behind the netting at PNC Park and you hardly notice it’s there.

I understand this may make it harder for players or coaches to throw baseballs into the stands for fans but what are we prioritizing? More souvenirs or more safety?

Nationals first baseman Ryan Zimmerman and Nationals closer Sean Doolittle both said it well in the Washington Post last month…

Zimmerman: “With the amount of incidents you’ve seen happen over the past few years, it seems like, to me, it’s a no-brainer.”

Doolittle: “I don’t care what kind of athlete you think you are. It’s really dangerous. It is. It’s really dangerous. It’s unrealistic to say, ‘Oh, you should just pay attention to the game.’ Come on, man. We’ve created this experience for fans, and I think we have an obligation to make sure that they stay safe.”

Pirates president Frank Coonelly released a statement after the Houston incident saying that the organization is reevaluating their protective netting design and immediately developing a plan to extend the protective netting at PNC Park.

I really don’t see how anyone could have an issue with that. In my eyes…the sooner, the better.

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