In a measure to help combat the injuries to fans being struck by screaming line drives in the first few rows over the dugout, all 30 Major League Baseball clubs will now have the protective netting extended to the outfield end of the dugouts in time for the 2018 season. Most of the teams were already there, but in the last few days, the final teams made announcements.
"Providing baseball fans with a variety of seating options when they come to the ballpark, including seats behind protective netting, is important," said commissioner Rob Manfred in a statement. "Major League Clubs are constantly evaluating the coverage and design of their ballpark netting and I am pleased that they are providing fans an increased inventory of protected seats."
Now, let's be clear about the extensions over the dugout. It appears there's a good compromise between the people wanting the nets extended and those who hated the idea. The nets over the dugouts won't be near as high as those behind home plates in some stadiums.
As an example, here's the mock up from the Mariners -- one of the final teams to make the announcement:
Just eye-balling it, the nets appear to be roughly half (if that) the height of the net behind home plate. The Mariners say those particular nets will be just 11 feet above field level and we know the dugouts are already several feet above field level.
Among the complaints we've heard is that the net obstructs the view. Which, man, it really doesn't change that much. I took this picture from Minute Maid Park before Game 5 of the World Series:
Sure, you can see it, but if that affects your viewing pleasure of the game, you're a lot more picky than I am. Plus, you have the choice to sit elsewhere.
Another complaint I've seen is that fans won't have as many opportunities for catching baseballs. The lower net should help alleviate some of those concerns. With it being around 11 feet above the field level, all we're taking away are the line drives liable to crush someone's face.
Further, it's still possible for coaches and players to toss souvenirs into the crowd either over the shorter net or rolling over the dugout to people in the front row.
As for concerns about getting autographs from and/or pictures with the players, the overwhelming majority of that happens down the lines past the dugouts and access there is still unfettered.
For many -- yes, including myself -- the added benefits of protecting those from 100+ miles per hour line drives far outweighs the negatives here, especially with the extended nets being much shorter in height.