Jun 18, 2019
- ESPN MLB insider
Author of “The Arm: Inside the Billion-Dollar Mystery of the Most Valuable Commodity in Sports”
The Chicago White Sox will extend protective netting to both foul poles this summer, the team announced Tuesday, committing to additional safety measures a week after a woman at Guaranteed Rate Field was struck in the head by a foul ball and hospitalized.
White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf spearheaded the plan, sources told ESPN, and high-ranking officials from other teams expect it to have a cascading effect, with teams around the league pledging to extend netting.
One source with knowledge of installing netting believes other teams could retrofit their stadiums before the end of the 2019 season.
Players have been outspoken about increasing safety measures after multiple foul-ball injuries in recent weeks.
After a foul ball by Cubs center fielder Albert Almora Jr. injured a young girl in Houston, Chicago star Kris Bryant told ESPN every team should extend netting to the foul poles. “I think any safety measure we can take to make sure that the fans are safe, we should do it,” he said.
Almora saluted the White Sox’s move Tuesday.
“Obviously that’s a positive step in this sport,” he said. “I don’t think anybody should go home with bumps or bruises or even worse. So whatever they got to do to take care of that, I’m glad they’re taking procedures.”
While the impetus for the White Sox wasn’t necessarily the June 10 incident in which an Eloy Jimenez screaming line drive went into the stands and hit a woman, it accelerated their plans to extend the netting at Guaranteed Rate Field. The woman was released from Mercy Hospital and Medical Center last week.
Major League Baseball has left the decision of increased netting up to teams.
Before the 2018 season, every team committed to extending netting to the end of both dugouts after a spate of highly publicized foul-ball injuries. Commissioner Rob Manfred said recently he expected the extended-netting conversation to “begin and continue into the offseason.”
Protective netting was not expected to be a priority discussion topic at the owners meetings that begin Wednesday, according to sources. The White Sox’s decision, however, could change that.