Traditionally, nets at baseball stadiums were only behind home plate to protect fans from foul tips. Now, after the injuries keep piling up, many Major League teams extended the netting as far at the dugouts. There had even been talk of adopting the Japanese style of having netting from foul pole to foul pole, but I don't believe any team has gone that far yet.

The Lakewood BlueClaws are following their parent club, the Phillies, and adding more protective netting to keep the fans at FirstEnergy Park safe, and I am all for it.

blueclaws.com

I go to a handful of BlueClaws games a year, and I actually worked there for two summers a bunch of years ago. I've never seen anyone get badly hurt, but I've definitely seen a few times when an usher will bring a fan an icepack after they get struck with a ball.

I got the chance to be the Guest PA Announcer a few times, and one of the "check this out" highlights in the booth is a huge dent in the wall directly behind the microphone that was made by a foul ball. The PA booth seems far enough from the plate to not be a danger, but seeing cracked drywall behind me made me realize the insane speed and power of a ball coming off a bat.

I've always been a focused baseball fan, and I understand the argument that "people should pay attention to the game, and not just stare at their phones"...but really, even if I'm paying 100% attention to the action, I still might not have the reaction time required to get my hands in front of my face before a ball breaks my nose, or hits Baby Varacchi.

I actually think Minor League Baseball needs more protection, because it's more of a family-focused environment. There's always something on the big screen, there's always Buster roaming the crowd, there's always families in the stands with little kids.

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Installation will begin next month, and be done in time for Opening Day on April 16th. The new netting is designed to have 95% see-through visibility, and is colored to better blend in with the field. I'll be interested to see how it looks when I take in my first BlueClaws game this season.

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