CHICAGO - The White Sox will be the first major league baseball team to play with an extended net Monday, after incidents of fans being hit by foul balls at stadiums across the country sparked calls for increased protections.
Fans on the ground level of Guaranteed Rate field will be safeguarded behind a newly extended net when the White Sox take on the Marlins Monday night in Chicago.
Following a number of high-profile incidents involving fans getting struck by foul balls, the White Sox were one of the first clubs in Major League Baseball to announce they would extend the nets at their ballpark from foul pole to foul pole. The netting was installed during the All-Star break and the team's 10-game road trip.
This initiative comes after a few fans have been injured this season due to balls batted into the stands. That includes an incident that stands out to fans in Chicago, when Cubs outfielder Albert Almora Jr. hit a foul ball into the stands at Houston's Minute Maid Park on May 29, hitting a 2-year-old girl and fracturing her skull.
“Right now I want to put a net around the whole stadium,” Almora said after.
A similar incident happened in Cleveland on Sunday, when a hit Indians shortstop Francisco Lindor sent a ball into the stands, injuring a three-year-old fan. Also this weekend, a bat went flying into the stands in Tampa, hitting a White Sox fan.
Players like Almora have been the ones speaking out, even more than fans, specifically asking for this change after kids kept getting hurt. Major League Baseball doesn’t require extended netting for all teams. The Washington Nationals also added netting over the break, and will debut it Monday night as well.
While the White Sox hope such incidents can be prevented by adding extra netting in 2019 and beyond, some baseball fans say it might take some getting used to.
“Even if they extend it they can’t put it around the whole thing. It’s like people get hurt every day,” said Sox fan Katrell Irvin.