The Houston Astros announced Thursday they will extend the netting closer to the foul poles at Minute Maid Park before the team’s next homestand begins Aug. 19.
It’s been more than two months since a 2-year-old was hit by a foul ball at the park on May 29. The child was sitting with her family just beyond the netting on the third base side and suffered a skull fracture.
The extended nets will go beyond the dugouts nearly to the foul poles. The current more common knotted netting will be replaced with knotless netting, which is easier to see through for fans.
"Fan experience is always a top priority for the Astros," the team said in a statement. "These changes will improve the fan's experience and increase the number of seats behind protective netting. Fans will continue to have the option to sit in areas without netting."
Chicago Cubs outfielder Albert Almora Jr. was distraught during the game after his foul ball hit the child. He and other players called for extended netting. Despite at least four teams planning to extend netting in their own ballparks this year or even next year, the Astros did not. They announced plans to research the issue, but said at the time it was unlikely to happen during this season.
The Chicago White Sox and Washington Nationals already expanded their nets. The Los Angeles Dodgers, Pittsburgh Pirates, Texas Rangers, Kansas City Royals and Toronto Blue Jays have made announcements they will do so. And the Detroit Tigers did it last year.
The family retained an attorney, Richard Mithoff, after the incident to communicate with the team. He told the Houston Chronicle the family is pleased and declined to comment on any discussions they have had with the team about netting.
"They are gratified to hear that the Astros have made the decision to extend the netting. I wanted to give (Astros owner) Jim Crane the opportunity to do the right thing, because I thought he would, and so I congratulate the Astros and Jim Crane on the decision. It is the right decision for the fans and the right decision for baseball."
He said the child has improved but has a “stumbling issue” as well as other medical issues and will remain on anti-seizure medication “for some time.”
Earlier this week, senators Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth called on Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred to collect and report data on fans injured by foul balls at games.
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