Just over two years ago, three words were uttered after a woman was accidentally hit with pieces of a baseball bat in the field level seats at Fenway Park in Boston. Tonya Carpenter was “expected to survive” after she suffered a severe head injury from bat fragments that flew into the seats beyond the protective netting in between home plate and third base. She is still recovering from a brain injury.
After that incident, Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred suggested that major league teams extend the netting behind home plate to the inner side of both dugouts, a distance of 70 feet from home plate. It was a safety issue that was ignored. The players association claimed in collective bargaining negotiations that they told the owners that fans who sit near the field need more protection from foul balls and broken bats and netting should extend down to the foul poles. The players said the owners said no. Because of injuries and lawsuits that has changed, there is more netting.
Recently, New York City Councilman Rafael L. Espinal Jr. introduced legislation demanding the city’s four teams, the Mets, Yankees and two minor league squads extend protective netting from behind home plate all the way to the foul poles.
Mets ownership has decided to extend the netting as of July. The Mets and the Yankees ownership built stadiums with team money and generous local government subsidies.
Espinal said, “Owners are worried about the fans’ ability to see clearly. But our concern has to be for the fans’ safety, not their view of the game.”
Major and Minor League Baseball teams play in publicly owned facilities and safety is an issue between the ballpark owners, the municipalities, and their tenants, the baseball owners. It appears the owners could lose their say in the size of netting. The ballpark owners will enforce safety codes for their own protection.
By Evan Weiner For The Politics Of Sports Business
This article was republished with permission from the original publisher, Evan Weiner.