SAN DIEGO -- For the third time in as many years, the Phillies will increase protection from foul balls for fans at Citizens Bank Park.
After consulting the Philadelphia-based engineering firm Ewing Cole, and in accordance with a league-wide directive from Major League Baseball, the Phillies have decided to extended the netting to the junction of Sections 137 and 138 on the left-field line and Sections 109 and 110 on the right-field line, vice president of business affairs Howard Smith said Wednesday. The netting stopped at Sections 133 and 114, respectively, last season, Smith said.
The Phillies also will raise the netting to 25 feet above the dugout, according to Smith. The netting was raised from 8 feet to 12 feet for last season.
"Given the speed at which the ball is coming off the bat, we made the decision that we would extend the netting," Smith said. "We wanted to go as far as we could. The good news is we think we have it covered."
Given the unique dimensions of each ballpark, some teams were able to extend the netting further than others. Speaking at the winter meetings here at the Manchester Grand Hyatt, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred said seven teams will stretch the netting all the way to the foul pole. That wasn't an option for the Phillies, Smith said, because it would involve running guy-wire above the field in fair territory.
"It's very difficult, with an elbow [where the stands begin to angle away from the field], to extend netting all the way to the foul pole because you need to run cables over what would be inside the field of play," Manfred said. "The data does show that the risk of foul balls is less when you get our past these elbows."
The Phillies believe they have been out in front of the netting issue since MLB brought it up with teams before the 2018 season. MLB talked to the clubs again during this past season after two U.S. senators -- Illinois democrats Richard Durbin and Tammy Duckworth -- wrote a letter to Manfred urging him to release data collected by teams about unprotected seats that remained most vulnerable to foul balls.
Smith said the Phillies encountered “virtually no blowback” from fans about the netting changes last season and don’t anticipate discord with the latest round of changes.