Following similar moves by the Chicago White Sox, Houston Astros and several other Major League Baseball franchises, the Orioles are extending their ballpark’s protective netting down the foul lines and raising it to the same height as the existing netting behind home plate.
While the team was already plotting such a change for next season, it announced today that extended netting will go up before the Orioles’ next home game on Sept. 5 against the Rangers.
“The safety and security of our fans is of the utmost importance to the Orioles as we continue cultivating a fun, fan-friendly, and affordable experience for everyone to safely enjoy Orioles Baseball,” the franchise said.
The Orioles and the Maryland Stadium Authority, which owns Oriole Park at Camden Yards, worked with ballpark architecture and design firm Populous and others to research the safety-related matter, “and performed due diligence to determine that this is the best and safest option for Oriole Park,” the announcement said.
Fan safety has come front and center this summer following even more injuries to fans at ballparks, with even U.S. senators now applying pressure on franchises to extend netting to shield onlookers.
In May, a foul ball injured a young girl at an Astros home game, where she was sitting with her family just past the end of the protective netting down the third-base line. In June, a woman was hospitalized after being struck by a foul ball at a Chicago White Sox home game, also along the third-base line. And a similar case happened to a female fan along the first-base line in late June at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles. Ten months earlier, a 79-year-old fan at Dodger Stadium died after being hit by a foul ball that went up over the netting behind home plate.
All three teams are among those that have since extended their netting to the foul poles.
Last year, all 30 franchises expanded netting around their ballparks’ home plate before the season began, but calls have persisted for more–including pushing it all the way out to the foul poles, as they do in Japan–as fan injuries continue to happen.
Some fans have pushed back against changes like the one the Orioles announced today, saying they don’t want the netting to mess with the view from the seats they’ve paid for. But according to a survey commissioned by ESPN earlier this year, 78 percent of MLB fans say it’s a good idea.
The Orioles will also be extending protective netting to near the foul poles at their training complex, Ed Smith Stadium in Sarasota, Florida, before spring training begins, per today’s announcement.
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