After Series of Incidents, MLB Issues New Fan Safety Policy

Fenway Foul Balls and Bats Hurt
Daniel Flynn

After injuries to several fans at parks across the country, Major League Baseball has issued a new safety policy.

MLB released the plan via its Twitter account on Wednesday and presented ideas to protect fans from thrown bats, foul balls, and other safety problems recently faced by fans.

The new safety recommendations issued for all 30 teams stemmed from a review started earlier this year.

“Major League Baseball prides itself on providing fans in our ballparks with unparalleled proximity and access to our players and the game taking place on the field,” commissioner Rob Manfred said the Tweeted statement. “At the same time, it is important that fans have the option to sit behind protective netting or in other areas of the ballpark where foul balls and bats are less likely to enter. This recommendation attempts to balance the need for an adequate number of seating options with our desire to preserve the interactive pre-game and in-game fan experience that often centers around the dugouts, where fans can catch foul balls, see their favorite players up close and, if they are lucky, catch a tossed ball or other souvenir.”

The rules come after a series of incidents of injuries and even deaths of fans who attended games. Among those incidents, in June a fan was hit in the face by a splintered bat at Fenway Park. Worse, several fans have died from falls at parks including three fans at the Braves’ Turner Field.

There had been so many incidents of fan injuries that a group of players even criticized the league for not taking fan safety more seriously, especially from line drives that can enter the stands going so fast that spectators have less than a second to react.

“Even if you’re paying attention you can’t react that fast,” Detroit Tiger Anthony Gose said in August. “We can’t react that fast in the dugout, and we’re paying attention to the game. You’re sitting there, and you can’t react fast enough in the dugout. Guys are just (barely) getting out of the way. A fan who’s never seen anything moving that fast at them in their life? No chance. Zero chance in this world, a fan sitting right there over our dugout could react–and we can’t react that fast in the dugout.”

Several sports writers also insisted that the league should work harder to protect fans.

So, in hopes of limiting the danger from thrown bats and line drives, MLB has recommended more nettingbe placed between fans and the field.

Clubs are encouraged to implement or maintain netting (or another effective protective screen or barrier of their choosing) that shields from line-drive foul balls all field-level seats that are located between the near ends of both dugouts (i.e., the ends of the dugouts located closest to home plate, inclusive of any adjacent camera wells) and within 70 feet of home plate. The Commissioner’s Office has retained a consultant specializing in stadium architecture and protective netting to assist interested Clubs in implementing this recommendation.

Commissioner Manfred remarked on the netting, maintaining: “I am confident that this recommendation will result not only in additional netting at Major League ballparks, but also draw additional attention to the need for fans who make the choice to not sit behind netting to be prepared for the possibility of foul balls and bats entering the stands.”

Manfred also recommended that each team continue to hunt for new ways to educate fans about the dangers of thrown bats and hit balls. He added that he will assist teams to develop these policies. Manfred also asked teams to make it more clear which seats will be covered by protective netting during the online ticket buying process.

It should be noted that at this time the new plans are not requirements but recommendations.

Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston or email the author at