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Photo Credit: Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports

Blue Jays To Extend Protective Netting Along Base Lines At Rogers Centre

Over the course of this fall and winter, as a growing group of clubs announced that they would be extending the protective netting down their base lines (moves that came largely in response to growing pressure to do so in the wake of a toddler being struck by a foul ball at Yankee Stadium, an incident at Fenway Park, plus countless others), I’ve found myself grumbling in the direction of the Blue Jays (on Twitter, at least) for their lack of movement on this issue. Today, however, we learned that common sense has prevailed, as the club announced in a media release that they too will be extending their netting.

“The new netting will be extended to the outfield end of each dugout (Section 126 and 117, respectively), while the existing netting behind home plate will be replaced with new netting, and increased in height by approximately 10 ft,” the release explains. The club also claims that “the new state-of-the-art netting is designed to blend into the background and provide greater visibility, ensuring fans can remain close to the action in a safe manner, without compromising the viewing experience.”

While I don’t doubt its veracity, the latter statement is surely an attempt to assuage the concerns of the small but vocal group of fans who might object to their sight lines being blurred — a group that… exists? I think? But that really doesn’t have a leg to stand on in this “debate”:

Even more to the point is the fact that it feels like we’re not too many serious incidents away from extended netting being mandated by the league anyway, so why the hell not just be proactive about it? Especially in this era of high exit velocities and giant distractions sitting in every fan’s pocket, the potential for disaster is very real, and too often right there in front of us. As the Times article linked above notes, the toddler was the third person struck by a foul ball or shattered bat at Yankee Stadium in 2017. The image I’ve used a the top of this post shows a fan being escorted toward medical attention after being struck at Rogers Centre this summer. We’ve all seen the close calls. You just… you don’t want to be hockey on this — a sport that was spurred to make changes after the tragic death of 13-year-old Brittanie Cecil in Columbus in 2002.

That awful story illuminates another side of this issue: the concerns of the players. In a Columbus Dispatch piece nine years after Cecil’s death, it’s written that Espen Knutsen, who shot the puck that was deflected into the stands and struck the teen, found it difficult to continue playing after the incident. “It really shook me, my teammates and everyone around the team more than people could ever know,” he said.

You can see that sort of anguish in the pictures of Todd Frazier and Yankees third base coach Joe Espada that appear in the Times piece. And it’s telling that Tim Lieper, the Blue Jays’ first base coach, who is in the line of fire more often than just about anybody — and gets a close-up view on a regular basis of just how hard balls are rocketing into the stands — reacted to the announcement like this:

And I mean… like… holy fuck:

Jesus. (And another other thing is that not only does Bourne know the feeling of having a deflected shot fly up into the crowd, he knows just how bad it is to get hit by a shot too.)

Another key point is this one (though, to be needlessly picky, I’m not sure I agree that it’s the more important detail):

So… yeah. Not that a whole lot of people were going to be dumb enough do this anyway, but kindly piss the fuck off if your instinct here is to whine about having to watch the game through netting.

  • Barry

    Cue some fucking moron who has probably never actually sat behind netting but will nevertheless complain that the netting somehow interferes with their enjoyment of the game.

    • Nice Guy Eddie

      The Blue Jays installed netting several years ago at Dunedin to the end of the dugouts, as will be done here. For people sitting behind the netting, it detracts considerable. What you will see is that section 118 and 117 on the first base side and the same two section on the third base side (I24/125) will lose a whole bunch of season ticket holders next year. People who sit in those sections specifically choose to sit there so they will NOT be behind the home plate netting. All the people who like virtue signalling and calling other people ‘fucking morons’ but who don’t actually buy tickets for the expensive seats where the view is being compromised, can look at this as ‘progress’, but the people who have been buying the seats aren’t going to like this at all. They’ll soon be watching the game on TV with all the people who like the netting.

        • Steve-O

          like literally every other safety measure ever implemented in sports, there’s a segment of the population that will bitch and moan about it until their inflated sense of persecution fades and they forget why it was ever a big deal in the first place

      • Teddy Ballgame

        While we’re at it, we should remove the boards from around the ice at a hockey game. Always disrupts my view. And you can see all the Leaf fans that decide to stay home because of it. Or is that just as each period starts?

        • Nice Guy Eddie

          Anyone who says anyone who says ‘virtue signalling’ is trash, is trash. ‘Virtue signalling’ is the effort made by some to seek approval of their peers by announcing their virtue for all to see. Him home bud?

          • Barry

            No, “virtue signalling” is a term popular on the internet among people whose sense of self-worth depends on going online and arguing with people. I would think that anyone whose self-worth is dependent on being an online asshole is, by definition, trash. So, any objective analysis would suggest that Stoeten is correct.

      • Barry

        Bull shit. I’ve been behind home plate many times. You’re telling me people hate those seats? Like hell.

        But keep faking outrage. They’re not going to walk back from safety to please the internet whiners.

  • Jeff2sayshi

    Good on them for getting this done. I was gonna question the raising behind home plate, but if people say it’s necessary, so be it. It’s something you get very used to, very quickly.

  • ouch

    In searching for more info on the new netting, imagine my surprise to find a pic of myself being led off after being hit in the head with a line drive foul ball. You’re welcome Toronto!!