As the Dodgers prepared to unveil plans for a $100-million renovation to Dodger Stadium on Tuesday slated to be completed in time for the 2020 season, the team has been working behind the scenes to finish another addition that cannot wait for next season. The Dodgers plan to extend protective netting to shield fans from foul balls at Dodger Stadium by next month, two team officials told The Times.
The officials requested anonymity because the extended netting has not been announced by the team.
After a young woman was hit in the head by a Cody Bellinger line drive and hospitalized last month, the Dodgers announced that they would look into extending the netting and released the following statement:
“Fan safety is of the utmost importance to the Dodgers and during the offseason, we began the process of studying how the netting at Dodger Stadium could be configured to provide better protection for our fans. Once this study is completed, the team will implement the recommended changes and extend the netting at Dodger Stadium. The team will provide more information on the project timeline and scope when available.”
The Dodgers might have heeded a plea from one of their own players. Pitcher Rich Hill telephoned the Major League Baseball Players’ Assn. in June to voice his opinion: It’s time to extend protective netting to ensure fan safety.
“It’s such a little investment to protect a life,” Hill said the day after his call. “Everybody puts their seat belt on when they get in a car. Times change. A lot of things have changed to indicate in these circumstances that we’re in a different time. That’s it. Period. And I don’t think anybody will be upset by that.”
Though a date has yet to be finalized for the installation of the extended netting, the expectation is that it will be ready in August. Presumably, the Dodgers would install the netting when the team is on the road. The Dodgers return from a seven-day trip Aug. 20 to face the Toronto Blue Jays.
The Chicago White Sox and Washington Nationals extended the netting at their ballparks this week from the end of the dugouts to the foul poles after a recent series of fan injuries caused by foul balls. Teams in the past had been reluctant to extend the netting, fearing fans would complain about sight lines. However, the fear of fan injuries now outweighs those concerns for many teams.
Last year, 79-year-old Linda Goldbloom died four days after a foul ball struck her in the head at Dodger Stadium and a young boy was struck by a ball during batting practice earlier this season. In May, a line drive hit and hospitalized a young girl at Minute Maid Park in Houston. And Sunday, a foul ball off the bat of Indians shortstop Francisco Lindor hit a young boy. Lindor called for all teams to extend their safety netting so similar incidents don’t occur.
“You don’t want that to happen to anybody,” he said. “Especially a little kid.”
Times staff writer Jorge Castillo contributed to this report.