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.