White Sox, Nationals, Pirates become first MLB teams to further extend protective netting at stadiums

In the past few weeks the Chicago White Sox, the Washington Nationals and the Pittsburgh Pirates have all announced plans to extend protective netting at their respective stadiums. Currently, there are no MLB ballparks that have protective netting to the foul poles in the outfield corners. The changes are expected to be made as soon as possible this season. 

The White Sox have plans to extend the netting all the way down the foul lines to the foul poles at Guaranteed Rate Field. 

Unlike the White Sox, the Nationals announced that the netting at Nationals Park will not extend all the way to the foul poles. This image shows where the netting will added:

"Over the past few weeks, we have seen several fans injured by bats and balls leaving the field of play at other stadiums," Nationals owner Mark Lerner wrote in a statement. "I could not help but become emotional last month watching the Astros-Cubs game when a four-year-old little girl was hit by a line drive. I can't imagine what her parents must have felt in that moment. And to see the raw emotion and concern from Albert Almora Jr. was heartbreaking. Further extending the netting at Nationals Park will provide additional protection for our fans."

The Nationals say the extended netting will be installed during the All-Star break in July. The team says all netting at the ballpark will be replaced with a knot-less product that "offers a higher degree of transparency than the traditional knotted netting."

The Pirates are the latest team to announce plans to extend the protective netting. Pirates team president Frank Coonelly said that the club is in the active planning stages to extend the netting to or near the foul poles at PNC Park in a statement on Thursday. There was not a specific timeline for the extended netting released, but Coonelly added that the "efforts [are] on a very fast track." Here is the full statement:

As we stated in 2017 when we were one of the first Major League Clubs to extend our protective netting to the ends of the dugouts, fan safety at PNC Park is of paramount importance. It is heartbreaking to see a fan injured by an object leaving the field of play at any ballpark. We have once again engaged our netting experts to reevaluate our protective netting design and to immediately develop a plan to extend  the protective netting a PNC Park farther down the baselines. While we have put these efforts on a very fast track, we are committed to developing the right plan for PNC Park -- one that will increase fan safety while also preserving and enhancing the overall game day experience to the greatest degree possible. We will share more information with our season tickets holders, fans and other partners as our plans are finalized.

All 30 MLB teams extended netting to the end of each dugout before the 2018 season, but the decision to extend the netting beyond was left up to each individual team. 

After a young fan was hit by a foul ball during the Cubs-Astros game at Minute Maid Park on May 29, the topic of implementing full, protective netting at ballparks picked up steam. On Wednesday, the family's lawyer shared an update on the young fan. She suffered a skull fracture, had a seizure and was hospitalized for several days. The family is also looking into potential legal action.

Chicago Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant called for more netting at MLB ballparks after the incident

Bryant isn't the only player who has spoken out for more netting either; here's what White Sox pitcher Evan Marshall told the Chicago Sun Times after a woman was hospitalized after being hit by a foul ball at Guaranteed Rate Field on June 10:

"MLB has taken a few steps in the right direction extending the netting, but, honestly, it can go all the way down to the pole and it wouldn't hurt my feelings at all. There's not a player in here that wouldn't be in favor of that."

It'll be interesting to see if many -- if not all -- of the other 27 MLB teams will soon follow suit and move for more protective netting.

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