Washington Nationals become second MLB club to expand netting further

The Washington Nationals have become the second team in Major League Baseball to plan extended safety netting at its home ballpark.

Following the move announced earlier this week by the Chicago White Sox, Nationals Managing Principal Owner Mark Lerner said the club will install expanded netting to just short of the right and left field corners of Nationals Park. The installation will be done during the July 8-11 All-Star Break.

The Nationals’ move follows a recent series of fan injuries at MLB ballparks from batted balls, despite increased netting to the ends of the dugouts in place league wide at the start of the 2018 season. Lerner in particular said he was “emotional” last month following a game in Houston in which a four-year-old girl was injured by a foul ball.

“Over the past few weeks, we have seen several fans injured by bats and balls leaving the field of play at other stadiums,” Lerner said. “Further extending the netting at Nationals Park will provide additional protection from fans.”

The Nationals’ netting will be a newer knotless form of protective netting designed to provide higher transparency than traditional models. And like at many other MLB facilities, portions of the netting in Washington will be raised pregame to encourage interaction between fans and players.

MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred said while the league encourages and expects more clubs around the league to ultimately follow the lead of the White Sox and Nationals, the netting issue will remain a locally, franchise-driven one within baseball.

“All of these ballparks are different,” Manfred said. “It is my prediction these local efforts will continue to expand the netting in ballparks. We think we have made tremendous progress on this issue by providing information to the clubs and allowing them to address the particularities of their ballparks in a timetable that’s realistic for them.”