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Volume 26 No. 47
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Cubs-Astros Incident Renews Calls For More Protective Netting In MLB

Almora (c) said after the game that he wants protective netting put around the whole ballpark
Photo: GETTY IMAGES

An incident during last night's Cubs-Astros game, where a young girl was hit by a foul ball off the bat of Cubs CF Albert Almora Jr., "cast a pall over much of the night and underscored baseball's continuing battle with fan safety in an era of smart-phone distractions and balls being struck harder than ever before," according to Gordon Wittenmyer of the CHICAGO SUN-TIMES. The young fan's condition -- some social media reports "suggested she was 4 -- was not immediately known." The Astros released a statement postgame that said only that she was at a "nearby hospital." This incident is "sure to raise new calls for even more protections for fans," barely a year after MLB "mandated protective netting be extended in all ballparks past the dugouts." Almora after the game said, "Right now, I want to put a net around the whole stadium" (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 5/30). Cubs 3B Kris Bryant following the game said, "Let's just put fences up around the whole field. It's so sad when you see stuff like that happen. ... There's a lot of kids coming to the games -- young kids who want to watch us play -- and the balls come in hard. The speed of the game is quick, and any safety measure we can take to make sure that the fans are safe, we should do it" ("Cubs-Astros," ESPN, 5/29).

MORE PROTECTION NEEDED: YAHOO SPORTS' Mark Townsend wrote all 30 MLB teams had "met and exceeded the suggested distance by extending netting behind each dugout" prior to '18 season. However, there has "still been plenty of debate over whether even that distance is enough." The "scary incident in Houston would indicate that more could be and should be done to protect all fans, and especially those who are very young" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 5/29). USA TODAY's Steve Gardner wrote even though all MLB teams have "extended the protective netting around home plate in recent years, they can't prevent all incidents like this one." Minute Maid Park, like all MLB ballparks, "has netting to protect fans near the field from foul balls." On the third base side, it "extends to the end of the visiting team's dugout." Last night, the girl was "sitting in what looked to be the third or fourth row about 10 feet past where the netting ends" (USATODAY.com, 5/29). Astros manager A.J. Hinch said the nets at Minute Maid Park "have been extended as far as anywhere in baseball" ("Cubs-Astros," ESPN, 5/29).

TIME FOR CHANGE: ESPN.com's Jeff Passan wrote it is "well past time" for teams to "extend protective netting from foul pole to foul pole." Passan: "There is no argument against this, no humane argument at least, not when this keeps happening again and again and again. ... What will it take? Someone dying?" Passan noted that"happened last August, when Dodgers fan Linda Goldbloom was "hit in the head with a foul ball and died of a brain hemorrhage." If a woman "dying in the stands is not enough to convince MLB and its 30 teams to expand netting up and out, what will?" Figuring out a "solution -- protecting people -- is more than well worth whatever time and expense it takes" (ESPN.com, 5/29). ESPN's Mike Golic said extending the netting "is just a no-brainer." Golic: "It shouldn't even bring up the argument of, 'It's hard to see through the netting.' You'll get used to it. ... It should be the easiest conversation of all time." ESPN's Mike Golic Jr.: "What more can you get besides the death of a child that's really going to drive you to make the right decision?" ("Golic & Wingo," ESPN Radio, 5/30).