Crews started work this week to extend the protective netting to the foul poles at Guaranteed Rate Field and are expected to complete the project Wednesday, ahead of the Chicago White Sox‘s next home game July 22.
The White Sox and Illinois Sports Facilities Authority, which owns the ballpark, said in a news release that the work started Monday and the bulk of it should be wrapped up Wednesday and in place when the team’s next homestand begins in 12 days with three games against the Miami Marlins.
The White Sox will become the first major league team to extend netting to the foul poles after a couple of high-profile injuries this spring increased the focus on fan safety at ballparks.
During a May 29 game 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. Then on June 10, a woman was hit by a foul ball off the bat of White Sox slugger Eloy Jimenez in Chicago. Each of the incidents occurred in the stands beyond the dugout on the third-base side, sparking several players to call for expanded netting and accelerating the White Sox’s plans to extend the netting at Guaranteed Rate Field.
White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf spearheaded the plan to extend the netting, sources told ESPN’s Jeff Passan last month, and high-ranking officials from other teams expect it to have a cascading effect, with teams around the league pledging to extend netting.
One source with knowledge of installing netting told ESPN that other teams could retrofit their stadiums before the end of the 2019 season.
One such team, the Washington Nationals, announced on June 20 that they would extend their protective netting during the All-Star break with more transparent netting and extend it to just short of the foul poles in the left- and right-field corners.
At the urging of Major League Baseball, all 30 teams expanded their protective netting to at least the far ends of the dugouts at the start of the 2018 season. Several fans were injured by foul balls in 2017.