Five reasons that safety netting for MLB is a bad idea

  • David Whitlock

We have all seen it before.  A screaming line drive or wayward bat zips into the front rows of a baseball stadium causing fans to scurry, protect, or try to catch in self-defense.  It’s usually followed by a collective gasp of the 20,000 fans or show in attendance and then (more often than not) a thumbs up from fans at ground zero letting everyone know they are okay.  No doubt, in a few cases, there have been some serious medical incidents.  And now, lawsuits are trying to force Major League Baseball to do something to protect fans.  I’m here to tell you, this is just the latest example of over-legislation and restriction of the freedom of many, over a miniscule chance of occurrence.  Here are five reasons why safety netting is a bad idea.

5) The ballpark is supposed to look like a park

It won’t look like baseball with nets up and down the lines.  Yes, I know, behind home plate has for years been guarded by net and fence.  It’s a necessity of the 100 MPH fastball being redirected at a face.  But to have it all the way down the lines would ruin not only the fans at the game’s perspective of the game.  But also those on TV.  Tell me which of the below looks better?

camden09964

Iconic view of Camden Yards
Credit: ballparksofbaseball.com

nippon

The way the Nippon Professional League handles it
Credit: Photobucket: phabphour20

4) Enables fans to be part of the action

And I mean this in a good way.  Every night or two there’s a highlight video of a third basemen flying into the crowd trying to catch a fly ball.  Or the fan stands his or her ground and catches.  Or sometimes, interferes.  That’s part of the game (no I do not endorse interference).  We would have lost that classic Derek Jeter catch, the game-changing Juan Uribe grab, and the dad who caught the fly ball while feeding a baby.  No, I’m not even going all Bartman on you (oh wait, I just did).

Just another moment in baseball history! Credit: AP/Morry Gash

Just another moment in baseball history, maybe Chicago could have blamed the net?
Credit: AP/Morry Gash

3) Don’t obstruct my view!

Fans pay a lot of money to sit in the lower bowl of a stadium.  They pay even more to sit on the first couple of rows.  And what do they expect?  To have the best view in the house.  To even get a players autograph or even get a set of batting gloves or a ball souvenir from the final out of the inning.  The fence separates you from all that.  The players become animals as if in a zoo and you’re just an observer.  It just doesn’t work.

Don't tell me this view would be as good with a net Credit: kentmswig.files.wordpress.com

Don’t tell me this view would be as good with a net
Credit: kentmswig.files.wordpress.com

2) We’re reacting to a small percentage of injuries

With all due sympathy to those injured by objects leaving the field of play (including the horrific images of the fan in Boston just this year), it’s not that common of occurrence.  Maybe once a year per stadium there is an injury requiring immediate medical attention (i.e. hospitalization).  Most teams draw about 2,000,000 per year.  That means less than 1% of 1% (or 1E-6) that you get injured at a game.  Sit in seats beyond the first ten rows and that goes way down (and yes, if you sit in the first rows it goes up).  Putting up netting is the equivalent of not serving hot coffee because the one guy got burned and sued.  Instead, put up signs to be aware and then make a PA

Maybe these kids got the right idea! Credit: doubledutytwins.com/

Maybe these kids got the right idea with protective gear
Credit: doubledutytwins.com

announcement each game (check and check).  I’m willing to put my annual salary on the line that more fans are injured in car wrecks going to and from the game than by foul balls.  Should we ban cars by getting rid of all parking?  Don’t be ridiculous.  If you’re afraid of a sharkbite, don’t go in the ocean.  If you’re afraid of injury at a game, don’t sit in the first rows.  Or pay attention.

1) You assume risk with ticket purchase

If you’re that worried about an injury, just don’t go to the game.  No injury has every happened with a ball flying through a TV screen into someone’s living room.  Or wear a catchers mask.  Or helmet.  It’s just like if you don’t want to get sunburn, don’t go to the beach.  Don’t sue the sun for being bright.  Or God for having the nerve to create a beach.  Or the government for setting up a park there.  It’s part of the risk.  Take some responsibility for yourself.  Don’t ruin the experience for 10,000 fans per night with nets.

America (and Toronto) stands for freedom.  We don’t need nets, we need logical people who take responsibility for their actions!  Are you with me?

– David Whitlock

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About The Author

David Whitlock

David Whitlock - manager

David (a.k.a. Longhorndave or lhd_on_sports) joined the staff late in the 2012 season and moved to Site Manager in early 2013. A lifelong Houston Astros fan (and mini-season ticket holder for 9 years) he attends 20+ games per year. A statistics freak, David still keeps score the "old fashioned way" on occasion (and has kept manual score of World Series games since 1986 and retains the sheets). He was a featured guest weekly on the Phil Naessens Show. He is also a Texas Longhorns alumnus and huge football and baseball fan of his alma mater. When he isn't watching or writing about baseball, he works as a contractor at NASA Johnson Space Center. He lives by the mantra "a bad day at the ballpark is better than a good day anywhere else."

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