The Chicago White Sox began work this week installing safety netting to the foul poles at Guaranteed Rate Field, thus becoming the first Major League Baseball franchise to take spectator safety to this level.
Prior to the start of the 2018 season, all 30 MLB clubs extended their netting to the far ends of the dugouts. The Pittsburgh Pirates, Texas Rangers and Washington Nationals have indicated they intend to install netting to their foul poles, as well, and the Los Angeles Dodgers have said their netting will expand, but it's not known how far.
On June 10, a foul ball hit at Guarantee Rate Field by Sox rookie Eloy Jimenez resulted in a woman being hospitalized. It was just one of several well-publicized foul ball incidents occurring at various parks during the first half of this season.
The Sox said the work in Chicago will be complete before the next home game July 22 versus the Miami Marlins, as reported by the Chicago Tribune.
“I think it's great,” said Sox pitcher Lucas Giolito, as reported by NBC Sports in June. “For me, I think that in today's day and age, you have a lot of young fans, and guys are hitting the ball harder. I see the counter arguments like, 'Don't sit there' or, 'Just pay attention to the game.' Dude, no matter how much you're paying attention to the game, if that thing's coming in 115 miles an hour with tail, no matter if you have a glove this big, it could hit you right in the forehead. For me, being around baseball for so long, I think it's a smart move because it just keeps people safe. I hate seeing young kids get hit, having to go to the hospital. It just leaves a sick feeling in all of our stomachs. At the end of the day, I think it's the right move.”
MLB commissioner Rob Manfred has resisted ordering universal netting guidelines, saying the decision to extend is up to each team.
“We recognized early in this process that it was very difficult to set an individual rule, one rule that applied to 30 different ballparks, given their structural differences,” Manfred said Tuesday in Cleveland at a meeting of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. “Instead, we have opted to work with the individual clubs over a period of time to extend the netting, and we’ve made extensive progress on that.”