MLB Netting Guidelines
To this day, I will never forget the feeling. I was sitting in the back row of Section 126 with my son on my lap. Yoenis Cespedes stepped up to the plate, and I thought for a moment that it was a bad idea to sit there.
The thing is when Cespedes gets a hold of one, he gets a hold of one. They are line drive rockets out of the ballpark. After seeing him this season and in the Homerun Derby, can you honestly tell me there is anywhere in the ballpark that is truly safe from a ball off the bat like a player like that? So I sat there nervously as Cespedes struck out.
Now, I like that area because bathrooms are nearby, and it’s close to the FanFest section. Also, it’s an area of the park where you shouldn’t have to worry about batted balls. In fact the closest there ever was to a problem was when someone tried to push past me while I was holding my son, while standing in front of my seat, so they could catch a t-shirt from the presumably now defunct Pepsi Patrol. Note, I may or may not have had a hand in that person not catching the t-shirt.
In any event, I thought of the Cespedes at bat when MLB announced their new netting guidelines. I thought about how I was nervous that day when in reality there wasn’t any real reason to be. I then remembered why I was nervous. I was actually paying attention to the game.
First and foremost, let me state that I don’t want to see anyone get hurt at a game. I also do acknowledge that a screaming line drive could harm even the most alert fan. With that said, I believe the netting guidelines is a cosmetic and unnecessary gesture in response to a public outcry for extended netting. Why is it unnecessary? Well because teams like the Mets were already in compliance:
The Mets say the reason they're not changing netting at Citi Field is because it's already in compliance in going to edge of dugouts.
— Adam Rubin (@AdamRubinESPN) December 9, 2015
Also, there’s something lost in all of this. There’s a certain level of responsibility when you sit in those seats. The first is you shouldn’t sit there if you’re not going to pay attention. Baseball is an interesting game. You should watch it. If you’re not, in most ballparks, you have terrific club access. If you’re not going to watch the game, why not ignore it from a climate controlled room with a wait staff?
The next responsibility is you don’t sit kids there. It’s too close. Way too close for their reaction time. Furthermore, kids are always doing a million things at once. They’re eating hot dogs, asking to go to the bathroom, and watching the game. They’re easily distracted, and they’re distracting you. If you have the money to sit in these seats, you have the money to sit pretty much anywhere else. Go sit in the right section with your kids and come back when they’re older.
I honestly can’t think of a good solution to the batted ball problem than people paying attention and/or sitting in an area where it’s not an issue. The game starts with a warning about batted balls in the stands. Why make it more frequent than that? Think about it logically? If the person isn’t paying attention to anybody, why would this announcement reappeared on occasion cause this person to start paying attention? They’re not going to hear it because they weren’t paying attention in the first place.
The next is assigning security to watch out for people in hazardous areas to find people not paying attention. The gist is security could warn the person and/or move them to another section. This is a non-starter for me. Because someone is too good to pay attention to a game, a security guard is supposed to be wandering around and watching people. While this is happening, there’s a game on the field. The security guard is now at risk. He/she is walking the aisles making sure people are paying attention. Batted ball comes his/her way, and there is is sufficient time to spot the ball and move.
The other suggestions is the Japanese Leagues netting from foul pole to foul poul. I don’t like that either. First, one of the charms of being in that area is the ability to get an autograph. That goes out the window. The next problem is you’re preventing players from trying to catch a flyball in the stands. It’s always an exciting play. You’ve now taken it out of the game.
I’m sure there are other suggestions too. If they’re suitable to the play on the field and the fan experience, I’m all for it. However, none of the ones I’ve heard so far handle that delicate balance. Again, there’s no substitute for sitting there and paying attention. You’re not supposed to text while driving because it’s dangerous. Don’t text while the game is in play. It’s really that simple.
As for me, I quickly realized my fears were overstated. It happens a lot with parents of young ones. No one hits a ball there. If they ever do, I’ll be prepared because I actually watch the game.