2020 Netting Extension: Is It Enough?
The Baseball Rule
Major League Baseball has limited spectator liability. The League prides itself on an experience where spectators and players can interact. This reasoning is why fields have hesitated to extend the netting to each foul pole. A majority of these accidents are preventable with extended stadium netting. The juggle between spectator safety and experience has held consideration for the MLB. Yet, fields are not required to have nets installed around the entirety of the stadium. Instead, stadium liability has relied on "The Baseball Rule." The rule provides liability for ballparks as long as they have netting behind home plate.
This rule has provided liability for years. Yet, foul ball rates have increased over the past 20 years. The average fall balls per game increased from 48.9 in 2000 to 53.8 in the first half of the 2019 season. This increases the possibility of danger for fans. Foul ball injury increases when spectators and players are near each other.
Major Leagues are not required to report spectator accidents. After an investigation, only four teams reported accidents on their fields. From only four reports, there were 701 injuries from foul balls hit into the stands. NBC News found another 107 injuries between articles and social media posts. This report, with data from 2012 to 2017, reflects that such damages are expected. The gaps in the other twenty-six teams' data imply that many more unreported injuries occur.