PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — The Pittsburgh Pirates are planning to extend the protective netting at PNC Park, according to team President Frank Coonelly.
The Dodgers Cody Bellinger blistered a foul ball into the stands over the weekend in LA, hitting a young woman in the head.
Last month Albert Almora, Jr. hit a 4-year-old girl in the stands along the left field line at Houston’s Minute Maid Park. The family’s attorney says the little girl suffered a fractured skull and a seizure but is now recovering at home.
Pirates President Frank Coonelly on KDKA Radio this morning: “Those are always tragic incidents anytime a fan gets hit by a ball or a bat that leaves the field of play.”
Coonelly says immediately after the child was hit in Houston, the team got the extend-the-netting wheels in motion.
“We are currently engaging the people who we contract to do our netting to give us some plans for further extension of the netting,” he said.
The Pirates aren’t waiting for a directive from MLB, just as they didn’t in 2017 when they were one of the first to extend netting to the ends of their dugouts.
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Coonelly says at that time they, “thought by moving to the end of the dugout we were taking care of the issue and protecting fans that were in the line of fire.”
But more recent incidents have proven fans in the seats further down the foul lines are in the line of fire, too.
University of Lynchburg Physics Professor Eric Goff tells CBS News: “A ball coming off a scorching liner will come off the bat at a hundred miles an hour and it will travel 130 feet in about a second.”
That leaves almost no time to react — especially if the person is not directly facing the action.
Currently, all 30 teams have extended their netting to the ends of the dugouts.
The Dodgers, White Sox and Washington Nationals have all announced they will soon extend their netting to or near the foul poles.
The Nationals plan to put the nets up during the All-Star break.
Coonelly says there are logistical issues at PNC Park.
“There are some quirks of the building at PNC Park where towards the end of the foul pole, the seats jut back toward the fences so we’re looking at that right now.”
Once they figure out how to do it, the nets will go up.
“I’m confident that we’re going to have a further extension of our netting, whether it will be for this year or it will be for opening day of next year. We haven’t determined yet,” Coonelly says.
In a statement issued after Coonelly’s interview on KDKA, the Pirates say the netting “will increase fan safety while also preserving and enhancing the overall game day experience to the greatest degree possible.”
“We will share more information with our season ticket holders, fans and other partners as our plans are finalized.”
Coonelly has released this statement to the media:
“As we stated in 2017 when we were one of the first Major League Clubs to extend out protective netting to the ends of the dugouts, fan safety at PNC Park is of paramount importance. It is heartbreaking to see a fan injured by an object leaving the field of play at any ballpark. We have once again engaged our netting experts to reevaluate out protective netting design and to immediately develop a plan to extend the protective netting at PNC Park farther down the baselines. While we have put these efforts on a very fast track, we are committed to developing the right plan for PNC Park — one that will increase fan safety while also preserving and enhancing the overall game day experience to the greatest degree possible. We will share more information with out season ticket holders, fans and other partners as our plans are finalized.”
However, the debate continues among fans and baseball officials.