Commissioner Rob Manfred Says More Netting Is Not Likely This Season

SEATTLE — Rob Manfred, the commissioner of Major League Baseball, said he did not expect major league teams to make changes to the protective netting in their ballparks this season, though he said he expected conversations to continue about whether netting should be extended.

Manfred’s comments on Tuesday came less than a week after a young child was struck by a foul ball at a game in Houston and hospitalized. Manfred said that structural issues in each stadium would make it difficult to mandate changes during the season, but that the incident at Minute Maid Park would lead to conversations into the off-season.

[Read more: A Foul Ball, an Injured Little Girl and Another Cycle of Anguish]

During that game, last Wednesday, Cubs outfielder Albert Almora Jr. hit a line drive into the field-level stands down the third-base line that struck a young girl. Manfred said that the Astros had primarily been in communication with the girl’s family, and that the team had then updated the commissioner.

“Look, I think it is important that we continue to focus on fan safety,” Manfred said. “If that means that the netting has to go beyond the dugouts, so be it. Each ballpark is different. The reason I hesitate with ‘beyond the dugout,’ I mean, a lot of clubs are beyond the dugout already. But there is a balance here.

“We do have fans that are vocal about the fact that they don’t want to sit behind nets. I think that we have struck the balance in favor of fan safety so far, and I think we will continue to do that going forward.”

Following recommendations from M.L.B., all 30 teams by the start of the 2018 season had expanded their protective netting to at least the far ends of the dugouts after several fans had been injured by foul balls in 2017. The latest injury has renewed the debate about whether protections should go down the foul lines.

“It’s very difficult given how far the clubs have gone with the netting to make changes during the year because they really are structural issues,” Manfred said. “But because safety is so important, I’m sure that conversation will begin and continue into the off-season.”

Manfred was in Seattle as part of a West Coast business trip, but also to meet with the Mariners owner John Stanton, who has taken over as chairman of the competition committee.

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