Removing the nets above the baseball dugouts and down the line

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Major League Baseball has put up nets this season above the dugout and down the line to stop foul balls going into the stands. However many fans feel as though this has fundamentally changed the ballpark experience.

Aside from the obvious cosmetic differences watching the game from behind the net, much of the fun of the ballpark has been taken away. I am not sure if this is an oversight on the part of Major League Baseball of if the intent really was to make the game and players less accessible to fans, but that latter aim has surely been accomplished whether intentional or not.

Many people think of ballparks when they were kids, running around with a dusty old baseball trying to get signatures, trying to get a player or coach to toss you a foul ball over the dugout, exchanging a few words with your favorite player as they run to or from batting practice. Indeed many of these opportunities attract young and old alike, not just kids, and it is obvious to this writer that these great opportunities are now mostly impossible down “at the ballyard.” 

The author of this petition is a long-time autograph collector, and I watch frustrated and disappointed fans every time I go to the ballpark. I hear groans of frustration over the netting situation. I see frustrated players who actually want to sign autographs but point to the net and shrug “I’d do it but I don’t know how.” And ironically (since the nets are for “safety”) I see safety issues as people try to climb the dugout or reach under the heavy cable in an attempt to make such an opportunity happen. These hobbies, like ball hawking or collecting autographs or player photos, are long-standing fun hobbies practiced by thousands if not millions of people on some level and it is impossible to overstate the devastation that these nets are causing to these fans and hobbyists. 

And again, all of this is to say nothing of the significant cosmetic drawbacks of watching a game through a net. Moreover the nets go just far enough to limit fan access but not far enough to stop all fan injuries, giving many a rather cynical explanation for their presence. Bad optics for sure, both literally and figuratively. 

Honestly, for Major League Baseball, the presence of these nets represents a curious mixed message. They are trying to rebrand the sport by making it appealing to millennial audiences in a number of ways. However, in this writer’s opinion, they are being penny wise and pound foolish in restricting the fun at the ballpark that might just make a millennial such as the writer of this petition buy a ticket, something which this netting has made said generation very hesitant to do.

So, Mr. Manfred, I say to you: “TEAR DOWN THESE NETS!”



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