Major League Baseball (MLB) has announced that all 30 teams will have expanded protective netting beyond the far ends of each dugout at their ballparks next year, as part of ongoing efforts to address the issue of fans being struck by foul balls and pieces of broken bats.

The awareness of such dangers at MLB stadia has risen to prominence in recent months, with a number of clubs taking measures to address the issue. Speaking at the League’s winter meetings, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred said seven clubs will expand protective netting to the foul poles in 2020, while 15 others will expand their netting generally to the area in the outfield where the stands begin to angle away from the field.

Manfred said the remaining eight clubs have already introduced netting that extends substantially beyond the far end of the dugouts, but he highlighted structural limitations at certain ballparks concerning the “elbow” in the outfield where the stands begin to angle away from the field.

“With an elbow like I’ve described, it’s very difficult to extend netting all the way to the foul pole because you need to run cables over what would be inside the field of play,” Manfred said, according to the Associated Press news agency. “The data does show that the risk of foul balls is less when you get out past these elbows. And, again, the stands begin to angle way from the field of play.”

By opening day of the 2018 season, all 30 MLB venues had netting that reached to at least the far ends of each dugout. In June, the Chicago White Sox said it would be the first team to extend protective netting to the corners of the outfield at Guaranteed Rate Field (pictured).

In September, the Los Angeles Dodgers announced that extended netting was in place for its return to Dodger Stadium. The team had previously replaced the netting behind home plate and above both dugouts with a 33-foot net – eight feet longer than before. The 33-foot netting was extended by an additional 124 feet down the baselines, from both dugouts to the elbow bend in front of the baseline seats.

Earlier this year, it was revealed that a Californian woman died in August 2018 as a consequence of being hit by a batted ball while attending a game at Dodger Stadium. Linda Goldbloom, a mother of three and grandmother of seven, died on August 29 last year, four days after watching a game between the Dodgers and San Diego Padres.

Image: Joshua Mellin