The Orioles have become the latest team in Major League Baseball to take additional steps toward providing for the safety of its fans.
The club announced today that it will expand the protective netting behind home plate at Camden Yards and Ed Smith Stadium in Sarasota to reduce the risk of foul balls and spiraling bats reaching the crowd and causing serious injury.
Though the netting’s dimensions at Camden Yards won’t be known until the Orioles complete their work with the design and engineering crew, it’s likely to extend from section 16 through section 58. The netting at the spring training site also will stretch beyond the home and visiting dugouts, with more specific details forthcoming, according to a statement issued by the team.
Changes will be implemented prior to the 2018 season. Opening day at Camden Yards is March 29 against the Twins.
The push for teams to do more to protect its crowds gained momentum in September under horrific circumstances, after a 1-year-old girl was struck by a 105 mph foul ball from third baseman Todd Frazier at Yankee Stadium and sustained a broken nose and other facial fractures. Players were moved to tears as they knelt in prayer, the images burned into the game’s subconscious.
Six teams - the Reds, Rockies, Tigers, Mariners, Padres and Giants - made public their plans to expand their netting following the incident. There already were 10 teams with netting beyond the dugouts. The Yankees earlier this month announced the same plans at their ballpark.
The Orioles alerted the league office in the fall about their intentions as part of the emphasis on fan safety and security, but they declined to go public with it until today. The netting at Camden Yards currently reaches the near sides of the camera wells beside the dugouts. The upcoming adjustments will move it three sections beyond the outer edges of each dugout.
An article posted last week on MLB.com noted that the Orioles, White Sox, Athletics and Marlins were the only teams among the 30 that hadn’t changed the dimensions of their netting. The Blue Jays, Dodgers, Angels and Red Sox were counted among the latest this month to voice their intensions to extend it down the foul lines.
Some fans have argued against the measure, complaining of impaired vision and fewer chances to take home a souvenir. However, the loudest voices, including the ones belonging to manager Buck Showalter and his coaches and players, have called for the Orioles to increase safety measures.
The ballpark celebrated its 25th anniversary last summer and has undergone only a few changes over the years. A dirt warning track to replace the rubberized version, new sod, LED lighting, a center field roof deck bar. But today’s announcement is the boldest stroke designed to protect fans.
The Orioles released the following statement today: pic.twitter.com/vJ0irQnwHK-- Baltimore Orioles (@Orioles) January 24, 2018