(Reuters) - Major League Baseball has recommended to all 30 clubs that they provide netting or other protection for fans from dugout to dugout as a safety precaution from foul line drives, the office of the commissioner said on Wednesday.
To assist in safety measures for spectators in field-level seats within 70 feet of home plate, MLB has retained a consultant in stadium architecture and protective netting to assist clubs in implementing the recommendation.
“Major League Baseball prides itself on providing fans in our ballparks with unparalleled proximity and access to our players and the game taking place on the field,” Commissioner Rob Manfred said in a statement.
“At the same time, 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 (that slip out of players’ hands or shatter) are less likely to enter.”
The Boston Red Sox and Los Angeles Dodgers immediately issued statements expressing their intention to comply with the safety suggestion.
An Oakland Athletics season ticket holder filed a class action suit in federal court last season seeking to require MLB to extend netting from foul pole to foul pole, instead of just for sections behind home plate.
“She fears for her and her husband’s safety, and particular for her daughter,” the lawsuit said. “She is constantly ducking and weaving to avoid getting hit by foul balls or shattered bats.”
Within a month at Fenway Park, one fan was hit in the face by a broken bat and sustained life-threatening injuries before eventually recovering, and another required 30 stitches after being hit in the head by a foul ball.
Even those in the dugout could sympathize.
“I know it may restrict the viewing a little bit,” San Francisco Giants manager Bruce Bochy told USA Today, “but these new parks are so close to the field there are times when I can’t seem to get out of the way here, and this is what I do for a living.”
Manfred said he hoped to achieve a balance.
“This recommendation attempts to balance the need for an adequate number of seating options with our desire to preserve the interactive pre-game and in-game fan experience,” he said.
“Where fans can catch foul balls, see their favorite players up close and, if they are lucky, catch a tossed ball or other souvenir.”
Reporting by Larry Fine in New York; Editing by Mark Lamport-Stokes