Nationals Install "Safety Netting" at Nats Park

Posted by Dave Nichols | Wednesday, September 14, 2011 | , , | 3 comments »

According to eyewitness accounts and this post by The Washington Post's Dan Steinberg, the Washington Nationals have installed poles along the fences down each base line at Nats Park to hold up what a team spokesperson described to Steinberg as safety netting during batting practice.  The poles appear to be a good 20 feet high and run from the corners of the camera wells at the far end of the dugout to at least 3/4 of the way down the fence.

According to Steinberg in a follow-up tweet, the poles and netting will all be removed before the games.

From a Nats team spokesperson to Steinberg:
“The Nationals are constantly looking for ways to make sure that our fans have a safe and enjoyable experience while at Nationals Park,” a team spokewoman e-mailed me. “This is in part due to the event that happened in Texas and our ever-vigilant quest to find safe solutions for any potential ballpark hazards.”
The "event... in Texas" the spokesperson refers to was a fan that died falling from the outfield stands over a 20-foot high wall onto a concrete walkway, after reaching for a ball specifically tossed in his direction by Rangers outfielder Josh Hamilton.  The incident, while tragic, was completely avoidable and did not involve a batted ball.  The area the Nats are putting up the fencing has a three foot wall, at most.

I'm all for safety, and if the number of incidents of fans getting injured during BP around Major League Baseball warrants this type of reaction, then MLB should mandate it across baseball and not leave it up to the discretion of individual teams. 
 
But it seems to me more players are injured during BP than fans.  Earlier this year, Detroit Tiger reliever Al Alburquerque was hit with a line drive and suffered a concussion, and just last homestand, Houston Astros reliever Sergio Escalona severely sprained his ankle when he stepped on a teammate's glove chasing after a ball.

One thing "safety netting" during batting practice will certainly prevent is fan interaction.  If these nets are up during batting practice, as a by-product the time honored tradition of getting an autograph before the game will now be severely limited at Nats Park.

3 comments

  1. Jenn Jenson // September 14, 2011 at 3:29 PM  

    Seems like whomever did the cost-benefit on this one really missed the mark.

    Wonder what the risk of spraining an ankle is for those who buy $8 beers and dance to music by the dumb bands on the Scoreboard Walk? Of course, this risky scenario includes opportunities for the Nationals to generate revenue.

    If the Nationals can reduce injury risk and save $$$ on baseballs with poles and nets, I guess it's a winner from their perspective. Plus, there continues to be no risk of anyone saying the organization is good at "thinking like a fan."

  2. denisek // September 14, 2011 at 3:57 PM  

    The only real dangerous area during batting practice is section 136 and 135 in the corner that comes out into the field. Does it even protect the fans in that area?
    Just ridiculous.

  3. Feel Wood // September 15, 2011 at 9:55 AM  

    If players are interacting with fans in the stands during BP, that distracts their attention from the field where there is a lot of rather chaotic stuff going on. True, there may not be much chance of a fan getting hit by a line drive during BP, but there's a better chance of a player on the field getting hit by one when he turns toward the stands to respond to a fan who wants to interact with him.

    Just being able to watch batting practice should be benefit enough for any fan. There should be no expectation of having interaction with the players, getting autographs or balls or any of that. The players are doing their jobs at this point, and their job is playing baseball, not hugging fans. If you had an invitation to watch an orchestra rehearse, would you expect to be able to walk up on stage and have a chat with the conductor or the musicians? Of course not. Watching batting practice is the same deal, and these nets do nothing to prevent anyone from watching batting practice. If they prevent players from being harrassed by fans while they're trying to do their job, that's a good thing.