Blue Jays continuing to evaluate protective netting at Rogers Centre

With safety concerns increasing, MLB insider Shi Davidi discusses the benefits of expanded netting at baseball games.

TORONTO – The Toronto Blue Jays continue “to evaluate protective netting at Rogers Centre” as pressure mounts on major-league teams to better protect fans amid a recent spate of troubling injuries.

On Thursday, the Pittsburgh Pirates became the latest team to announce an extension of their netting beyond the Major League Baseball minimum of the far end of the dugouts, with team president Frank Coonelly saying in a statement that “we have put these efforts on a very fast track.”

He added that the club has engaged experts “to immediately develop a plan” for the netting to run farther down the baselines at PNC Park.

The decision comes after a female fan was struck in the head by a Cody Bellinger foul ball last Sunday at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, prompting the defending National League champions to announce they will extend their netting.

Earlier this month – in the wake of the disturbing injury suffered by a two-year-old girl struck by foul ball off the bat of Cubs outfielder Albert Almora Jr., in Houston on May 29 – the Chicago White Sox announced plans to run their protective netting from foul pole to foul pole.

The Washington Nationals followed suit, saying they’d add more netting to just short of the left and right field corners.

The Detroit Tigers extended their netting deeper down the first and third base lines last year, while the Texas Rangers will run mesh beyond both dugouts at Globe Life Park, their new home set to open in 2020.

The Astros said this week they are also looking at options for expanded netting but made no definitive commitment to take action this year.

The Blue Jays said in a statement Thursday night that “fan safety at the ballpark is our absolute priority and we are continuing to evaluate protective netting at Rogers Centre.”

One challenge they face in expanding the netting at the dome is the curved shape of the stands down the baselines, as well as the spacing around the camera wells at the far end of each dugout.

Ahead of the 2018 season, the Blue Jays extended their screen around home plate by 150 per cent, the net behind home rising from the previous 18 feet to 28 feet above the playing surface, while new netting over the dugouts rose 26 feet above the turf.

In the wake of the injury in Houston, both Vladimir Guerrero Jr. – who ripped a foul ball that struck a young girl in the abdomen in early May – and Randal Grichuk told Sportsnet they wanted to see expanded netting.

The Blue Jays are expected to run expanded netting at Dunedin Stadium, which is currently undergoing an expansive renovation, next spring.

The potential ramifications for teams that don’t extend their netting took a twist this week when the family of the girl struck in Houston retained a lawyer for potential discussions with the club, the Houston Chronicle reported.

A summary of hospital records provided by the lawyer to the newspaper revealed that the girl suffered a skull fracture with related subdural bleeding, brain contusions and brain edema.

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