Braves ‘considering’ extending netting at SunTrust Park

Seven of the 30 MLB teams have announced in recent weeks that they plan to expand the protective netting in their stadiums, and the Braves are considering joining that group.

The Braves, who installed netting to the far end of both  dugouts when SunTrust Park opened in 2017, now are evaluating whether to extend it farther down the foul lines.

“We have not made a decision on that yet,” Braves president and CEO Derek Schiller said this week, “but it is something that we are considering.”

As the need to better protect fans from injuries caused by line-drive foul balls draws increased scrutiny around MLB, the Baltimore Orioles, Chicago White Sox, Kansas City Royals, Los Angeles Dodgers, Pittsburgh Pirates and Washington Nationals recently have said they will extend the netting in their stadiums to or near the outfield foul poles. Some of those teams have begun the installation, while others are awaiting final designs or timelines for the project.

The Texas Rangers also have said netting will extend well beyond the dugouts in their new stadium that is under construction.

Nationals managing principal owner Mark Lerner, in a letter to fans last month about his team's decision to expand netting "to just short of the right and left field corners," wrote: "Over the past few weeks, we have seen several fans injured by bats and balls leaving the field of play at other stadiums. I could not help but become emotional (in late May) watching the Astros-Cubs game when a four-year-old little girl was hit by a line drive."

By the start of the 2018 season, all MLB stadiums had installed netting to the far ends of the dugouts. But until recently, no team had decided to extend it to the foul poles.

The Braves significantly increased the number of seats behind protective netting when they moved into their new stadium.

At Turner Field, the net ran from behind home plate to the start of the dugouts. At SunTrust Park, a 33-foot-high screen extends from behind home plate to the far end of the  dugouts, stopping at the camera wells adjacent to the dugouts, which are positioned farther down the base lines than in some stadiums. The netting now runs 145 feet down the third-base line and 149 feet down the first-base line.

Among the issues the Braves are evaluating is how further extending the netting would work within the design of SunTrust Park, where the seats jut closer to the field near the outfield corners.

“The geometry becomes something that has to be considered and is something that we’re looking at, as far as if we were to extend the netting how we might do so,” Schiller said.