Major League Baseball (MLB) commissioner Rob Manfred has announced today that all 30 MLB stadiums will add extra safety netting around the field starting in 2016. Many fans have been calling for this after 18 fans were injured between the MLB and Minor League Baseball (MiLB) last season. All 30 MLB owners told Manfred that they strongly encouraged the expansion of the netting. Along with the netting, Manfred and the MLB are planing to change the sliding rules and allow in-marketing for games.
"There will be a change," Manfred said while talking to the media today. "Obviously, safety is paramount for us, but there are a lot of fans who don't want to sit behind nets. So we're trying to reach an appropriate balance. The toughest issues for us are when we have fans on both sides of the equation. If it's about fans and, let's say, revenue, you always try to err on the side of the fan. But if it's that the fans want 'X' on one side and we're concerned about our fans on the other side, that's a more difficult balance. We're trying to reach an appropriate balance on the topic, recognizing that it's complicated by the fact that not every stadium is laid out exactly the same."
Even though those who sit in the seats would be thrilled to reach out and grab a souvenir foul ball, it is for the safety of the fans. In Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) out of Japan, most of the stadiums have the netting all around the field including the outfield. In the MLB it goes from on-deck circle to on-deck circle.
According to a lawsuit filed by an Oakland Athletics season ticket holder, 1,750 injuries per year by foul balls and broken bats could be prevented with more netting. In 2002 the National Hockey League (NHL) demanded all of its teams to install netting above the glass after a 13-year-old girl was killed by a deflected puck at a game.
Manfred did not announce how far the nets will go, but he said that information will be released at the next MLB Owners Meeting in January, 2016.
The MLB is also revising a instant replay rule that has had general managers and managers confused. The rule that says if a player slides into second base on a stolen-base attempt is called out if the player barely come off the bag.
Manfred announced that there will be in-marketing for MLB games on FOX Sports and its affiliates for all of fans with a smart phone and a cable subscription. In past seasons, you could only watch games that were out of market and you had to pay more than $100 to watch the games.