All 30 Major League Baseball teams will have extended netting in place by the start of the 2020 season.
Dina Simpson doesn't think the majority of the clubs are doing enough.
The protective netting, which every big-league team extended to at least the end of the dugouts prior to 2018, is as essential as ever, with bigger and stronger players facing faster pitching and rocketing foul balls into the stands at speeds of more than 100 mph.
Safety netting is made from specialty ultra-high molecular weight polyethylene.
The Indians on Wednesday, Jan. 29, announced that they will extend the netting at Progressive Field to cover Section 174 along the left-field line and Section 128 in right field. The measure will cover an additional 14 sections — seven on each side — but won't go all the way to the foul poles.
That, according to Crain's research, will be the norm in MLB.
Simpson and some Ohio lawmakers are hoping for more, however.
Simpson, a Chardon resident, is permanently blind in her right eye after being struck by a line drive at a Lake County Captains game in 2017. She has since become an advocate of netting that extends to the foul poles, and she found a willing listener in State Rep. John Patterson.
On Jan. 23, Patterson, a Democrat from Jefferson, and State Rep. Rick Perales, a Republican from Beavercreek, introduced House Bill 479, which, if enacted, would mandate protective netting to the foul poles at the eight major and minor league ballparks in Ohio.
Simpson said she's "disappointed" the Indians aren't taking that step and "would never want a person to assume" he or she is safe from line drives because they're seated in a section that doesn't have protective netting.
The Tribe and the Cincinnati Reds, who are also extending the netting at Great American Ball Park to the "elbows" (the areas at which the seating curves as it approaches the left- and right-field corners), are citing structural issues for not bringing the nets all the way to the foul poles.
Different ballpark configurations are why MLB isn't mandating that netting extend to the foul poles. MLB commissioner Rob Manfred also said in December that data show the risk of getting hit by a foul ball is reduced outside the elbow areas, where the stands "angle away from the field of play."
Analysis by individual clubs and websites such as FiveThirtyEight have shown similar results. Simpson and other proponents of pole-to-pole netting counter that it only takes one exception for potentially disastrous results.
Patterson told Crain's that Ohio's proposed bill is "a very logical, straightforward" step to ensure the safety of as many fans as possible. He cited stronger players, increased velocity on balls hit into the stands and distracted fans as "three factors that intersect for a very dangerous proposition."
But the state's measure, which has yet to get a hearing, could and likely will change in the coming months, leaving possible wiggle room for clubs such as the Indians and Reds that cite structural issues for not extending the netting to the foul poles. And even if the current measure does become law, the teams would have until April 1, 2021, to meet the state's standards.
"We would certainly want to look at alternative options that would still offer increased safety standards," Alex Sawatzki, a legislative aide for Patterson, said of the clubs that prefer not to go the foul poles because of their ballpark configurations.