Cleat Geeks

Clear Netting is the “Target”

This past Wednesday, the Twins announced plans to install new protective netting at Target Field that will actually exceed the recommended measures laid out by the league during the Winter Meetings earlier this month. newTargetNetting

Why have they decided to do this? The lower-level seats in Minnesota are the closest to the field of play than that of any major-league ballpark. Consequently, they’ve decided to hang protective netting that will run the length of both dugouts and extend about seven feet high. It’s the most aggressive plan put in place by a major-league team since the league made its fan safety recommendations. Many teams are still considering what works best for their specific venue, but the Twins were quick to acknowledge the elevated dangers of their fans sitting closest to the action.

The netting might prevent fans from catching foul balls they may have otherwise caught moreover, it will ultimately keep fans and even vendors who often walk those sections with their backs to the action much safer. Ensuring that safety is the first priority for the league, and Twins president Dave St. Peter believe fans will grow to appreciate that, even if the slightly altered view takes some getting used to.

Here’s more from the Associated Press:

”It was a very difficult decision because we understand the importance of the accessibility of players and our game for our fans and we’re sensitive to fans deliberately not wanting to sit behind a net,” St. Peter said. ”It impacts a relatively small amount of fans. That said, those fans are in many cases long-standing season-ticket holders and some of our most passionate, valued accounts.”

targetFieldseatsFor 2016, the dugout box seats that carry the greatest risk for being hit by foul balls at Target Field cost $74 per game in a full season-ticket package.

The Twins said the new netting will be minimally obtrusive for fans behind it. But for those of you who have ever sat behind a netting at a game of any kind, you know how annoying those nets can be. I have sat behind home plate at many of games and done the jerk your body as a foul ball comes ripping back over the umpire and suddenly deadens into the protective netting. On the other hand, I also understand the annoyance of the black netting when you are trying to take a picture or video of the action that you paid your hard earned money to see.

But the Twins are taking advantage of a unique technology available to create a see-through material for the netting that is still safe. St. Peter encouraged ticket buyers to see what the view will be like before deciding where to sit, or not sit. The Twins have begun communicating with season-ticket holders most affected by the change.

”Ultimately we believe that most of those fans will be accustomed to the net and ultimately will become appreciative of the net over the long haul,” St. Peter said. ”The most expensive and the most sought-after place in our ballpark, the Champions Club, has always looked through a net” he added.

Of course, ballpark safety has always been a concern for the league, but it was put into a sharper focus this season due to a series of serious fan injuries stemming from baseballs and bats entering the stands. If nothing else, those incidents injected some urgency into discussions that were often left unresolved or brushed aside when the newest hot topic came up.

TargetFieldbehindhomeIt has become an increasingly important issue in recent years for a couple reasons. First and foremost, the more modern ballparks, such as Target Field, have been constructed with seats much closer to the field. Obviously, the closer you are, the more vulnerable you are to not only being hit, but suffering a more serious injury.

There’s also the point that fans have become more distracted in recent years with the advancement of technology. All it takes is that split second needed to look at a phone to put a fan in danger. The netting should buy those fans some time while eliminating the risk for serious injuries.

More protective netting is a necessary step, even if some fans will argue it takes away from the ballpark experience. To put it simply, you can’t please everyone, but the priority should always be to protect them.

Parts of this article were written by Mark Townsend.


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