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Pirates to extend netting, prevent ‘heartbreaking’ injuries


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The Pirate Parrot sits with a child behind the protective netting at PNC Park. - MATT SUNDAY / DKPS

After fans were injured by foul balls in Los Angeles and in Houston, the latter a 2-year-old who was hospitalized with a fractured skull, the Pirates aren't waiting around for the next incident to take protective action.

"It is heartbreaking to see a fan injured by an object leaving the field of play at any ballpark," Pirates president Frank Coonelly said in a news release. "We have once again engaged our netting experts to re-evaluate our protective netting design and immediately develop a plan to extend the protective netting at PNC Park farther down the baselines."

Coonelly went on to say that while they are expediting the process, they want to make sure that they do it in a way that maintains the experience of being at a ballgame. Netting protects those attending the game, but it also limits fan ability to seek autographs, shake their favorite players' hands and get tossed balls from umpires, base coaches and fans leaving the game. For that reason, they will wait to announce a plan until the correct one is in place.

This was Colin Moran tossing a ball about 30 rows deep into the third base-side stands, something that will need to happen more frequently when the nets are extended:

[caption id="attachment_848177" align="aligncenter" width="640"] MATT SUNDAY / DKPS[/caption]

In 2017, the Pirates were among the first in MLB to extend the netting to the ends of the dugouts, and this plan will make them among the first to extend the netting farther. If not to the foul poles, far enough to provide a reasonable amount of reaction time for fans in the stands.


I really don't like the protective netting as a fan seated close to the action. I sat behind it a number of times in Morgantown, W.Va., watching West Virginia or Black Bears games and would get headaches and double vision when seated close and watching the game at an angle through the netting -- almost a Magic Eye effect.

None of that compared to the headache I dealt with for more than a month when I received, what I deem, my worst concussion out of a number in my life. It was one I thought I got over quickly, but I didn't. After feeling fine and then driving, I was physically a mess for weeks ... emotionally, longer.

Addison Russell, my least favorite ballplayer now, hit a scorching line drive down the third base line. I reacted and moved away from the ball, but it ricocheted off a padded beam and came back with enough force to send the glass from my eyewear into the Pirates dugout, cut me on the side of my head and my nose, and concuss the living %#&^ out of me. I'm a big guy, but my reactions are good. I reacted and was still hurt -- bad enough. If that ball was hit eight feet higher, it wouldn't have ricocheted off anything. It would have hit a fan. It might have hit them in a harmless spot. It might have done worse than it did to me.

I don't wish it on anyone. Extend the nets. Extend them everywhere in MLB.

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