SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - The Padres utilized the team's newly-expanded protective netting for the first time Friday afternoon while hosting a high school baseball game between La Costa Canyon and Vista.
The net now extends beyond both dugouts, stretching from section 115 down the left field line to section 116 down the right field line. Most of the net stretches 24 feet high, before tapering. Netting will also be added above the dugouts and the wall along the warning track.
In a statement revealing the details of the changes, Padres Executive Chairman Ron Fowler and General Partner Peter Seidler said, "We feel the new design drastically improves the safety of our patrons, while the state-of-the-art materials will have a minimal effect on the fan experience as it pertains to the view of the field and sightlines of our ballpark."
10News spoke with several fans at Petco Park Friday. While all said they understood and appreciated the safety concerns, not all of them like the change. "I would probably lean toward keeping it the way it was," said Mark Stephens, a Padres ticket plan holder. "
Stephens expressed concern that the netting could be an obstruction to the view from some seating locations. He also worries that the netting will reduce the opportunities for fans in those sections to catch foul balls, which is a reason many people choose to sit in the areas behind and just past the dugouts. Stephens believes fans should be paying more attention to the action on the field, so they can see a ball coming their way. "My personal feeling is that people could avoid 85% of the problem if they just watch the game."
Another fan, Brian Beaumont, agrees, saying too many people at games are distracted. "The netting might be a sign of the phone age. The smart phone and the not-so-smart fan."
The Padres are one of several teams who have extending their netting this off-season. It follows an incident last September at Yankee Stadium when a foul ball hit a one-year-old girl in the head. She suffered several broken bones and could have permanent damage from the impact.
In a similar incident last season, a man in Chicago, Peter Loos, was hit squarely in the eye by a foul ball while watching a game at Wrigley Field. Despite several surgeries, doctors say he will likely never regain vision in that eye. Loos is now suing Major League Baseball, arguing not enough is done to protect fans.