The Phillies plan to expand the safety netting at Citizens Bank Park before the start of the 2020 season, the team confirmed Tuesday.
NBC News was first to report the team’s decision as part of an investigation into a spate of injuries suffered by fans hit by foul balls at ballparks throughout the United States and Canada. The network reported there have been at least 808 reports of injuries from baseballs from 2012 to 2019, including the death of a 79-year-old woman who was hit in the head by a foul ball at Dodgers Stadium in Los Angeles in 2018. The report didn’t break down data by team or ballpark.
While the NBC News report quoted the Phillies as saying the new netting would extend to the foul poles, the team didn’t fully commit to that Tuesday.
“We are extending our protective netting beyond the current configuration," a team spokesperson said. "The logistics of that extension will dictate how far the new netting will go.”
Back in April, 21-month-old Lily Bates was hospitalized after she was struck in the head by a foul ball hit by Phillies slugger Bryce Harper at Citizens Bank Park. Fortunately, Bates only suffered minor tissue swelling, according to CBS3.
Among the people NBC spoke to was Dwayne Sowa, a Mets fan who needed surgery to repair his right eye after he was hit by a foul ball at Citizens Bank Park in 2014. Sowa didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment, but took to social media back in June to complain about the team’s decision not to extend the netting during the 2019 season.
Citizens Bank Park previously had the safety netting behind home plate extended down to the edges of each dugout, which was prompted by the 2016 hospitalization of a young girl who was stuck in the face by a foul ball while sitting behind the visiting dugout on the third-base line.
“We just felt the game was changing a little bit,” Howard Smith, the Phillies’ vice president of business affairs, said in May. “Quite frankly, every year it’s changing. You see guys throwing harder, the batters are stronger and faster, the ball is coming off the bat faster, and we felt that it was in our best interest and in our fans’ best interest to raise the nets.”
The Phillies did not offer any statistics on the number of injuries suffered by fans at Citizens Bank Park, and declined to provide details about any other new safety initiatives.