The Twins believe Target Field “is already in compliance” with new guidelines for safety netting to protect fans, a policy that Major League Baseball intends to recommend next month, team president Dave St. Peter said.
MLB is still developing its new guidelines, St. Peter cautioned, so the team won’t know until they are finalized what changes may be necessary at the six-year-old downtown ballpark. But “based on the discussions that we have been a part of, Target Field already meets or exceeds most of the standards that are being considered,” St. Peter said. “We’ve tried to be very conscientious about issues of fan safety.”
Protective netting stretches from dugout to dugout at Target Field, St. Peter said, with the exception of a camera well just to the home-plate side of the visitors dugout on the third-base side. That’s farther than in some stadiums, particularly some older ones.
Some safety advocates have suggested extending netting farther down the baselines, in order to shield fans from hard-hit foul balls or errant bats that enter the seating area. The issue gained greater attention after a fan was critically injured by a foul ball at Fenway Park last summer.
It’s a difficult issue for teams, St. Peter said, “because a certain percentage of our fans are equally vehement that they they don’t want to sit behind screens. They deliberately choose not to sit behind the nets. So we want to keep ample choices for fans.”
The Twins have investigated and considered additional netting, “and the good news is that the technology behind netting has improved,” St. Peter said. “So if we reach a consensus that more protection is necessary, modern technology might help us keep it from being too intrusive.”
While Target Field has had a handful of foul-ball injuries each year, St. Peter said their studies of the issue for MLB found that they are no more frequent than at the Metrodome, even though the new stadium’s seating bowl is closer to the field, and they are well within the norm for major-league parks.
Even if no additional nets are erected at Target Field, St. Peter said the team intends to do a better job of making fans aware of the importance of paying attention, and perhaps “encourage fans who plan to bring children, or who maybe want to be on their phones a lot of the time, to choose seats behind the screen.”
Commissioner Rob Manfred told reporters in Dallas on Thursday that MLB plans to issue the new guidelines at an owners’ meeting in January, so they can be implemented by the start of the 2016 season.
“When those come down, we hope to continue a dialogue with our fans,” St. Peter said, “so we can make sure we’re doing the right thing for everybody.”