ESPN survey: MLB fans back more safety netting

Major League Baseball fans support installation of more safety netting at ballparks by an overwhelming majority in a survey commissioned by ESPN.

Fans agreed by a margin of 78 percent to 22 percent that netting is a good idea because it protects fans who often do not have enough time to react to foul balls or bats that fly into the stands.

The survey was conducted last week by Hart Research Associates.

The opponents to netting said it is a bad idea because it obstructs fans' views, and because fans know and understand the risks of getting hit.

The survey was commissioned after an incident May 29 in Houston in which a 4-year-old girl was injured when she was struck by a foul ball off the bat of Cubs outfielder Albert Almora Jr. during a game between the Chicago White Sox and the Houston Astros. On Sunday, after the survey was taken, a woman at Dodger Stadium was taken to a hospital for precautionary tests after being struck in the head by a foul ball.

The results of the survey showed that Americans are more divided on whether MLB teams should be held responsible when a fan is hit, with a slight majority saying teams should not be held responsible. By a margin of 55 percent to 45 percent, respondents said teams should not be responsible, with MLB fans, avid fans and those who attended games more strongly supporting the idea.

Since 1913, every ticket to a major league game has included a disclaimer saying the holder of the ticket assumes all the risks inherent to the game. Called the "Baseball Rule," it has made it nearly impossible for fans injured at games to successfully sue teams or MLB.

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, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred, reacting to the incident in Houston, said he did not expect teams to make changes to the netting around ballparks during the season, but said he expected conversations to continue about whether the netting should be extended.

The White Sox and Washington Nationals recently announced they will extend their netting to the foul poles, with the Nationals saying they will make the changes during the All-Star break.

The Los Angeles Dodgers announced Monday night that they would extend their safety netting, likely this season.