The Washington Nationals announced Thursday that they will install protective netting at Nationals Park during the All-Star break, becoming the first MLB team this season to install protective netting from far right field to far left field.
The current coverage will be replaced by knotless netting, which is more transparent than traditional netting, and extended to just short of the right and left field corners.
Last month in Houston, a 4-year-old girl was struck and injured by a line drive off the bat of Cubs center fielder Albert Almora Jr, who was visibly distraught.
"Over the past few weeks, we have seen several fans injured by bats and balls leaving the field of play at other stadiums," Mark D. Lerner, the Nationals' managing principal owner, said in a statement. "I could not help but become emotional last month watching the Astros-Cubs game when a four-year-old little girl was hit by a line drive. I can't imagine what her parents must have felt in that moment. And to see the raw emotion and concern from Albert Almora Jr. was heartbreaking. Further extending the netting at Nationals Park will provide additional protection for our fans."
Nationals pitcher Sean Doolittle was one of many players who called for baseball to address the issue after the incident, saying fans' safety should be a top priority.
"I am glad the Washington Nationals have decided to lead the charge on this issue," Doolittle said of the announcement. "Players want fans to be able to safely enjoy the game without fearing for their safety."
Following recommendations from MLB, by the start of the 2018 season all 30 teams had expanded their protective netting to at least the far ends of the dugouts after several fans were injured by foul balls in 2017.
Earlier this month, reacting to the incident in Houston, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred said he did not expect teams to make changes to the netting around ballparks during the season, but he said he expected conversations to continue about whether netting should be extended.