It’s been over a month since Citi Field installed more protective netting along the boundaries of the field to save fans from what could be potentially life-threatening foul balls.
Several fans have been seriously injured by screaming line drives as well as broken, or whole, bats that have flown into the stands. However, tickets to major league games include a disclaimer that states they are not reliable for any injuries caused by objects gone awry at the game.
Despite not technically being liable for any injury, Citi Field still extended protective netting during the All Star Break – the netting now extends to section 126 down the left field line and section 109 down the right field line. The 30-foot high netting, which used to only protect fans directly behind home plate, now protects fans sitting up to the furthest photography booths – eight-foot high nets have been implemented that stretch two sections down those photo wells.
According to the New York Daily News, about 1,750 people are injured by bats or balls at MLB parks each year.
The MLB recommends that 70 feet of netting should be installed from behind home plate to the beginning of each dugout – if a fan sitting 70 feet away from home plate went face-to-face with the hardest hit ball this season (121.1 mph off the bat of Aaron Judge), the ball would reach that fan in less than three-tenths of a second. It is nearly impossible for a human being to react that quickly.
On the contrary, there have been instances where fans simply do not pay attention and have gotten blindsided on something that was easily preventable.
Eric Lipkin, a Met fan, said the injuries are a mixture of both instances.
“Now, of course, when a guy rips a foul ball or loses a bat into the stands, it’s a matter of reaction time. But I’ve seen so many highlights where people just weren’t watching the game,” said Lipkin, a lifelong Met fan.
Lipkin also offered another potential issue the netting has brought up and could stay as a problem: fan-to-player relationships.
With the netting being 30 feet high behind the dugouts, players cannot lightly toss a baseball to a fan sitting a couple of rows from the field. Autograph seekers could also be disappointed.
“Before games I think it will definitely take away from player/fan interactions as far as shaking hands or getting an autograph,” said Lipkin.
“I think the league can create new ways for fans and players to interact before games,” said John Internicola.
Internicola added that no in-game experience has been ruined by fans sititng behind home plate, who have always had protective netting in front of them.
“The most expensive seats are behind the plate which have always had netting so I dont think it’ll negatively affect the in game experience,” he said.
Safety is a concern for Emily Hayes, however, as her friend was hit under the eye at a minor league game.
“She’ll never have feeling in that cheek again. I’m all for it,” said Hayes.
MLB has said there is no timetable to make it make extra protective netting, but it is apparent that some fans want it now, before someone pays the ultimate price.