White Sox Confident Extended Netting Will Not Deter Fans
The White Sox during last night's game against the Marlins "unveiled extended protective netting" at Guaranteed Rate Field that stretches from foul pole to foul pole in an effort to protect fans from foul balls, according to Vinnie Duber of NBC SPORTS CHICAGO. White Sox VP/Communications Scott Reifert said that the "reaction to the team’s move has been positive." He noted the netting is "light colored" and said it "doesn't really seem to impact" fans' views of the game. He said, "We've tested, we've sat in seats, and we don't think the impact will be very dramatic for most people." Duber noted the team "left the door open for changes in the future" if fans become "concerned with how the new netting might affect access to players before games (NBCSPORTSCHICAGO.com, 7/22). In Chicago, Madeline Kenney notes while several fans "were in support" of the move, "not everyone embraced the netting." Some "worried it would hamper the fan experience." White Sox players "supported the netting because it eased their worries of injuring a fan at the plate" (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 7/23). Meanwhile, the TRIBUNE's Teddy Greenstein notes the new netting "could play a factor in games." While the area above the dugouts is "still considered out of play, the new protection will function as a wall." That means if a batted ball "lands in fair territory and then bounces off the netting, it is in play." The same goes "for an errant throw" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 7/23).
JOB WELL DONE: NBC Sports Chicago’s Leila Rahimi said the White Sox are “taking a preventative measure here thinking about their fans.” Rahimi: “Given the culture of baseball and the fans and whether or not we like to admit it, it was going to take some team just putting its foot down ... and saying, ‘Enough. We’re just going to do this and if you all want to follow suit then you can follow suit,’ and for the White Sox to be that team is a very impressive move.” NBC Sports Chicago’s Scott Podsednik applauded the White Sox' "proactiveness" with extending the netting. He said fans “cannot watch every pitch of a game” and it is surprising that "more people don’t get hurt" at games (“Baseball Night In Chicago,” NBC Sports Chicago, 7/22).
NATS ALSO ON BOARD: The AP's Scott King noted the Nationals also were scheduled to debut extended netting last night, but the team's game against the Rockies was rained out (AP, 7/22). In DC, Matthew Gutierrez notes a "majority of fans surveyed informally at Nationals Park" yesterday said that they are "in favor of extended protective netting, though not all of them are on board" (WASHINGTON POST, 7/23). Also in DC, Ryan Wormeli notes the Nationals, perhaps "in anticipation of some pushback from fans concerned about a diminished view," were "quick to describe the new netting as being nearly see-through." The Nationals "installed retractable netting, allowing it to come down prior to gametime." This will "afford fans even more opportunities to interact with players and ask for pregame autographs and pictures" (NBCSPORTSWASHINGTON.com, 7/22).
WHO ELSE WILL FOLLOW? ESPN’s Eddie Matz said it is “just a matter of time before eventually we’re going to see extended netting everywhere" and it is "long overdue.” ESPN's Jeremy Schaap noted MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred has been "subjected to withering criticism for not taking action at this point." However, Matz said he "can’t imagine that the commissioner is not trying to get this done as quickly as we all think it should be done" (“OTL,” ESPN, 7/22). NBC’s Savannah Guthrie noted all ballparks have "come under increased pressure to add more protection." NBC’s Willie Geist: "You’re going to see this across the big leagues. It’s coming" (“Today,” NBC, 7/23). ESPN Radio’s Jason Fitz said now that several teams that have extended their netting, there is "no longer an excuse for anybody else." If teams "aren’t doing it the question is why and fans of those teams should demand an answer to that" (“Golic & Wingo,” ESPN Radio, 7/23).