Padres To Expand Protective Netting at Petco Park

With MLB Commissioner in town, Friars announce increased safety measure

Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred’s tour of big league ballparks brought him to San Diego’s Petco Park on Thursday night. Foremost on his … and everyone in baseball’s … mind was the awful incident at Yankee Stadium on Wednesday night.

A young girl was hit in the head by a foul ball traveling at 105 MPH. She was still in a New York hospital when the Commissioner addressed the media in San Diego.

“That type of accident is upsetting for all of us that work in the game. You saw it in the players on the field,” said Manfred. “Believe me; believe me, equally upsetting for people who work in front offices around the league. Safety in our ballparks has been a constant agenda item for us over the last couple of years.”

The accident has once again brought up the issue of netting behind home plate at big league ballparks. As of now Major League Baseball “recommends” that teams install netting from dugout to dugout behind home plate, which is around 70 feet. But there is no rule or mandate that ballparks need to to conform to that recommendation.

MLB is not going to have a hard and fast rule about ballpark netting even after the accident in New York but is trying to work with each ball club to try and do something more.

“I think it’s important to understand that each individual ballpark has quirks,” said Manfred. “My view is that the best way to address this issue is to allow the clubs to handle it as a local matter.”

That means all 30 Major League Baseball franchises will still have the ability to determine how much safety netting they have at their stadiums.

“I don’t want my willingness to have the issue be handled locally to me mistaken as a lack of focus on this issue,” said Manfred. “It’s been something that we have talked to the clubs on an ongoing basis over the last two years. I think I’ve elected a process that will be the most effective over the long haul in terms of getting the best safety situation we can get in our 30 ballparks.”

Before the 2017 season the Padres extended netting from dugout to dugout at Petco Park. In a statement the franchise said it is going to expand the protective netting even more moving forward:

"Following several months of planning, the San Diego Padres announced that they will install additional netting during the offseason at Petco Park that will extend to the end of each dugout. The increased safety measures will be in place prior to Opening Day in 2018 when the Padres host the Milwaukee Brewers on March 29. The Padres will continue to proactively evaluate all safety practices at Petco Park to ensure the security and well-being of our fans at the best ballpark in America."

The Padres are one of 11 teams that have plans to expand netting. MLB is facing mounting pressure to further protect fans sitting close to the field. On Thursday U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) wrote a letter to Commissioner Manfred urging MLB to expand netting in the off-season. The letter reads, in part:

“It is clear that fans are virtually defenseless when foul balls go into the stands. The solution is clear: extend the nets protecting the fans. I appreciate the steps that Major League Baseball and individual teams have taken, and hope that all teams will commit to extending their safety netting in the off season. I look forward to meeting with you to discuss the steps being taken to encourage common sense safety measures at ballparks.”

Back in May, Councilman Rafael Espinal Jr. of Brooklyn has introduced a bill to the NY City Council that would require any stadium there with at least 5,000 seats have netting from home plate all the way to the foul pole.

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