COLUMBUS, Ohio — A bill proposing that major and minor league baseball teams in Ohio be required to extend the protective netting around the field was introduced to the State House Thursday.
House Bill 479 calls for the protective netting at minor league and major league baseball stadiums to extend from the end of the dugouts to the foul poles, to the height of the top row of seats in the lower section.
The bill proposes that the netting extensions be installed by April 1, 2021.
H.B. 479 would allow the netting to be temporarily removed or lowered, allowing fan experiences to take place before and after the game—a concern many fans had when talk of netting extensions had been brought up in the past.
Ohio representatives John Patterson and Rick Perales introduced the bill to the House, which will be reviewed and assigned to a committee and voted on before it is sent to the Senate, where a similar process will be followed before legislators decide whether or not H.B. 479 will become a law.
The Cleveland Indians issued the following statement last month regarding net extensions at Progressive Field, which they confirmed will be implemented this season:
We can confirm our plans to have extended netting in place for the 2020 season. We will provide more details in January after we finalize those plans.
Last season, a young boy was hit by a foul ball that came off the bat of shortstop Francisco Lindor, who later voiced his concern over the lack of protective netting.
“It sucks. I encourage every MLB team to put the nets all the way down. I know it’s all about the fans’ experience of interacting with players and I completely get that. You want to have that interaction with the fans, getting autographs and stuff, but at the end of the day we want to make sure everybody comes out of this game healthy and we gotta do something about it.” Lindor said. “It sucks. Everybody feels bad, and if we can put the nets a little bit further down I think it would be a lot better.”
The boy was taken to the hospital after the incident but was confirmed to be doing well shortly after the game.
Representative Patterson said he was driven to create the bill after his constituent was struck by a foul ball at a Lake County Captains game in 2017 and is now permanently blind in one eye. Patterson said there are three reasons these injuries happen at major and minor league games.
"At the old Cleveland Stadium, fans were further back—not so much anymore, so they're closer. Secondly, the athletes now are stronger. The hitters are stronger, the pitchers overall the speed has increased which means the speed off the bat has too. The third dimension is cell phone usage and the distracted fan," Patterson said. "You mix all that together and you've got a potent blend that could lead to tragedy."
Patterson researched baseball injuries due to foul balls and used his findings to draw up H.B. 479 with Perales.
The representative said the plan isn't intended to interfere with fan experience, but to ensure safety for all the the ballparks.
"I know people want to see the players up close, so that's why [the netting] is retractable," Patterson said. "Sitting behind home plate, you get used to the netting after awhile. I just think this is important, especially for younger people who tend to be more distracted with their electronic devices."