Bill seeks extended safety netting at all Ohio pro ballparks


COLUMBUS (AP) — An Ohio state lawmaker introduced legislation Thursday requiring all major and minor league baseball teams in the state to install protective netting from foul pole to foul pole.

State Rep. John Patterson introduced his bill in response to concern from a constituent blinded in one eye by a hard-hit foul ball, The Columbus Dispatch reported.

Dina Simpson, 46, has been pushing for the change since her injury in 2017.

She was sitting along the third-base line with her family at a Lake County Captains game outside Cleveland when she was struck in the eye by a line drive. She suffered a concussion, a broken nose and a broken orbital bone. She has been told by doctors that her right eye is permanently blinded.

“I’m thankful I took the hit and not my son,” said Simpson, who was sitting with her 4-year-old when she was struck.

The Captains, a Single A farm club for the Cleveland Indians, extended netting to the end of the dugouts before the 2018 season.

The legislation from Patterson, a Geauga County Democrat, would require pole-to-pole netting be installed by the 2021 season. No additional protection would be required in front of the outfield bleachers.

Similar safety concerns have arisen elsewhere in the country. A 2-year-old girl sitting on her grandfather’s lap at a Houston Astros game last season was struck by a foul ball, causing a fractured skull and permanent brain damage, an attorney for the girl’s family said.

Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred announced in December that protective netting at every park must extend “substantially beyond the end of the dugout.” He said seven teams will have netting from foul pole to foul pole.

The Cincinnati Reds have cited structural issues for not expanding netting the foul poles at Great American Ball Park. A team spokesman said netting will stretch significantly past each dugout.

The Cleveland Indians will be extending netting at Progressive Field this season but have not said how far. An announcement is expected by the end of the month.

The Columbus Clippers, the Indians’ AAA affiliate, have pledged to extend netting to the foul poles for the upcoming season at Huntington Park.

No additional protection would be required in front of outfield bleachers.