The Orioles are joining Major League Baseball’s push to better protect fans by expanding the protective netting behind home plate at Camden Yards out past both dugouts.
The netting, currently stretching from home plate to near to the inner sides of each dugout, will likely extend to sections 16 and 58 before Opening Day on March 29, the club said in a statement.
“The Orioles informed Major League Baseball in the fall of last year that consistent with the club’s emphasis on the safety and security of fans, the existing netting at Oriole Park at Camden Yards would be extended to cover an increased area prior to the 2018 season,” the franchise said.
The club noted fans could still get whacked with flying bats, bat debris or balls beyond sections 16 and 58. “Ticket holder assumes all risk of injury,” the team said.
The O’s said they are “still working with our design and engineering team on the specific dimensions of the new system,” but they’re planning to make similar changes to the existing netting at Ed Smith Stadium in Sarasota, Fla., where spring training begins on Feb. 23. The franchise said more details will be announced soon.
Some fans will be disheartened or upset to ponder altered sight lines from the stands, but others will be pleased, given the accidents of past years. Last year, an Ellicott City woman sued the franchise because she was hit with a flying bat at a game during the 2016 season. Three years earlier, a 13-year-old girl from Bel Air had to have surgery after being struck by an errant ball during batting practice before a game.
Other incidents have abounded across the league in recent years, including one in which a toddler was hit by a foul ball at a Yankees game last September. That tragedy has pushed more teams to extend protective netting in their stadiums.
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