The Orioles are joining the growing number of teams planning to lengthen the protective netting at their home ballparks for 2018.
Until now, the netting at Camden Yards has extended behind home plate between the camera wells on the near ends of the dugouts. When the Orioles begin play on March 29, the club said Wednesday, the netting will extend beyond the far edges of both dugouts.
The netting at Ed Smith Stadium, the team’s spring training ballpark in Sarasota, Fla., will also extend beyond the dugouts.
“The Orioles informed Major League Baseball in the fall of last year that consistent with the club’s emphasis on the safety and security of fans, the existing netting at Oriole Park at Camden Yards would be extended to cover an increased area prior to the 2018 season,” the club said in a statement.
The Orioles are the 25th of 30 major league clubs to extend netting beyond the dugouts. The Boston Red Sox, Los Angeles Dodgers, Los Angeles Angels, New York Yankees and Toronto Blue Jays all have announced plans to extend netting in recent days.
How far the netting at Camden Yards will extend has yet to be determined, but it is expected to reach from Section 16 to Section 58. It could extend slightly beyond or slightly less than the entirety of those sections.
That will put the netting three sections beyond the far ends of the dugouts. The configuration of the ballpark, and the positioning of seats that typically are within range of hard-hit balls played the major role in deciding the extent of the netting.
The team did not announce the dimensions or cost of the net extension.
Fifteen teams have announced plans to add netting since a toddler was struck by a foul ball at Yankee Stadium in September. The girl suffered facial fractures and bleeding on the brain.
Going into last season, only 10 major league ballparks had netting that extended to the far ends of both dugouts.
Five clubs have yet to announce expanded netting for 2018.
The Orioles’ announcement Wednesday came a day before Orioles single-game tickets for the 2018 season go on sale to the general public. That played a part in the timing of the announcement, enabling fans to select protected spots or sit elsewhere if they don’t want their sightlines impeded by netting.
Oliver Higgs attends about 10 to 12 games a year. The Towson man said having two young children has limited him to purchasing seats right behind the protective netting behind home plate or in the upper deck. He said the extended netting will allow him to choose from a wider selection of seats and still be closer to the action.
“I remember when the discussion about the netting first came a couple years ago,” Higgs said. “And at that time, I was like, ‘Ugh, is it going to affect watching the game?’ But it’s interesting how your perspective changes when you have kids and want to take them to a game.”
Tim Van Hoesen, a 13-game-plan ticket holder, worries that the netting will take away one of the best aspects of going to a game, the opportunity to get a ball. The Annapolis man attends games with his 6-year-old son. While his son doesn’t pay attention to every pitch, Van Hoesen makes sure he does himself.
“It’s taking away from that one thing baseball has that’s so special, hoping for that chance to take home a piece of the game,” Van Hoeson said. “Now extending them over the dugout is fine to me, but stretching it out two sections past that is overkill to me. ….The more fences you put up, the more you separate it from the fans, and it takes away from the game-day experience.”
While the netting will be stationary, it doesn’t appear that it will extend over the top, as it does in some ballparks, so players will still be able to toss balls over the netting into the crowd, and foul balls that go over the netting can still be caught for souvenirs.
The Orioles were co-defendants, along with Major League Baseball, in a suit filed in Baltimore Circuit Court in March by an Ellicott City woman.
Plaintiff Patricia Dowdell, who was hit and injured by a bat that flew out of first baseman Chris Davis’ hands during a 2016 game at Camden Yards, sought $75,000 in compensatory damages for injuries that included “skull and orbital fractures, subarachnoid hemorrhage, brain swelling [and] permanent traumatic brain injury.” She also asked the court to require netting at Camden Yards to extend to the far ends of the dugouts.
A stipulation of "dismissal with prejudice" was filed by the plantiff three weeks ago, an act that closes the case permanently. Dowdell’s lawyer, Brendan Klaproth, declined to comment on the outcome but said in an email that he was “pleased with the Orioles’ decision to extend the netting.”
Extended netting breakdown
Twenty-five of Major League Baseball's 30 teams have or will have extended protective netting at their stadiums in 2018.
» Ten teams entered last season with netting that extended beyond the dugouts:
New York Mets
» Six teams announced last season that they would extend netting after a young girl was hit by a batted ball at Yankee Stadium in September
» On Wednesday, the Orioles became one of nine additional clubs that announced since the end of the season that they will extend netting in 2018:
Boston Red Sox
Los Angeles Angels
Los Angeles Dodgers
New York Yankees
Toronto Blue Jays
» Five teams have not announced plans to extend netting:
Tampa Bay Rays