Reds to protect fans with added netting

September 21st, 2017
The current netting that covers the seats behind the plate meets MLB's recommended guideline. (AP)

CINCINNATI -- The Reds announced plans on Thursday to install expanded netting at Great American Ball Park ahead of the 2018 season. The new netting will stretch to the far ends of each dugout.

The current netting that covers the seats behind home plate meets Major League Baseball's recommended guideline, but the new setup will go beyond that standard. Reds shortstop Zack Cozart has advocated for the Reds to expand their netting, especially after he saw a girl struck by a ball the first week of the season.

"I don't think it will take away from the experience," Cozart said. "There is netting behind home plate and those are the best seats you can get. I think it should be a peace of mind thing for parents who don't have to hone in on their kids. They can do whatever they want and not worry about a line drive or chopped ground ball coming towards their son or daughter."

Cozart, who has a wife and a 3-year-old son, noted that he makes sure his family's tickets to games -- at home or on the road -- are either behind netting or in the upper deck. He would like to see all teams extend their netting to protect more fans from the potential of injury.

The Reds apparently had expanded netting in the works for a while. A Reds spokesperson said that Thursday's announcement was not in response to an incident at Yankee Stadium on Wednesday when Yankees third baseman -- a former Reds All-Star -- lined a foul ball into the third-base section of seats. The ball struck a young girl, who was assisted by medical personnel before being carried out and taken to the hospital.

"Our thoughts and prayers continue to be centered around our young fan and her family," the Yankees said in a statement on Thursday. "We remain in direct contact with her family and the hospital, and we will provide any and all assistance that may be necessary."

"As players, it's the last thing we want," Cozart said. "I'm sure Todd feels terrible about what happened yesterday at Yankee Stadium. Every player, you could see that it affected them.

"Even if I sat above the dugout with my glove -- and I play at the highest level -- if one of those lined shots came, I might not even be able to catch it. Even when they're paying attention, some of the balls come at them so hard. It's just not safe. I get frustrated every time this subject comes up."

Before the Reds' announcement, manager Bryan Price was also a proponent of expanded netting.

"I do know that I've had family members and friends that have been in the exposed seating close by," Price said. "I would much prefer to have them behind home plate with the protective netting, for all the obvious reasons."

Farrell hopes to pitch against dad's Red Sox

Reds long reliever couldn't help anticipating the next series on the schedule. The Red Sox will be at Great American Ball Park for three games and are managed by his father, John.

"For me, my dad has never been able to coach me growing up or playing in high school," Farrell said. "To pitch against him from across the field while he's coaching and I'm playing, especially at this level, would be a really cool thing."

The Red Sox spent their Thursday off-day in Cincinnati, and the Farrells got to hang out.

"I think he probably has the best scouting report available," Farrell said of his father. "He probably is [sharing it]; they're trying to get into the playoffs. I know they clinched, but they're trying to get a division, too."

If Luke does get to pitch, it would be the first time a Major League player faced his manager father's club since 2004, when Moises Alou played against a Giants team skippered by Felipe Alou.

"Extremely unique," Price said. "I know John saw Luke pitch in Kansas City when he made his debut [for the Royals on July 1], which I thought was sensational."

Price hoped he could find a way to get Farrell into one of the three games.

"When you can provide those moments, it sure is a nice thing to do," Price said.