Albert Almora’s foul ball that struck a young girl in Houston’s Minute Maid Park started a discussion around baseball. The other team in Chicago became the first to act on it.
On Tuesday, the White Sox announced that the team will be extending the protective netting at Guaranteed Rate Field to both foul poles later this summer. As the news broke in the afternoon, Cubs players were asked about it before the first Crosstown game of the year. Unsurprisingly, all of them were in favor of the move.
“I think obviously that’s a positive step in this sport,” Almora said. “I don’t think anybody should go home with bumps or bruises or even worse so whatever they got to do to take care of that, I’m glad they’re taking procedures.”
Almora admitted that the incident he was involved in has moved the conversation forward and led to more action from teams. Before the White Sox announced the decision, the Iowa Cubs, the Cubs Triple-A affiliate, had said they would be extending the netting at their park.
“Unfortunately my incident was, I don’t want to say the reason behind it, but I think teams are obviously paying attention,” Almora said. “Even incidents that aren’t making headlines, we had one in Dodgers Stadium where I saw the section of the crowd go silent while we’re still playing. At least 10 fans go home with bumps and bruises at the best. I don’t want to see that and I know any player in this league doesn’t want to see that either.”
Manager Joe Maddon said this wouldn't have happened so quickly without Almora's incident.
"Everything that occurs like that is going to expedite," Maddon said. "It always does. It normally takes a situation to get things rolling so of course it had some bearing on it."
Jon Lester thinks more teams will follow suit now that the White Sox have been the first one to extend the netting.
“Would I like to see it? 100 percent, but we’ll see how far my opinion gets us,” Lester said. “It’s a positive. Obviously when one team does it, then you get kind of the herding effect and the rest of people follow.”
Anthony Rizzo also believes the rest of the league will get there eventually, but wasn’t sure going all the way to the foul poles is necessary.
“Both foul poles is pretty aggressive in my opinion, but you don’t want to see anyone get hurt,” Rizzo said. “I think sooner or later it probably will end up being both foul poles for every team, but I think the netting here is really good. There’s some line drives that hit fans, but that’s far enough away where it’s not the span of a finger and if you’re engaged in a game, which most everyone here is usually. You don’t ever want to see anyone get hurt so whatever it takes for people not to get hurt.”
Maddon told a story from his playing career to explain why the issue was close to him before Almora's foul ball. When he played in Quad Cities in 1976, he saw a kid sitting behind home plate get hit in the face because the net wasn't very wide.
"I sat with his dad and the kid had a bloody face and from that moment it made an impact on me," Maddon said. "I won't let my kids sit anywhere at a ballpark unless there's a net in front of them or if they're high enough or far enough back that the velocity is off the baseball by the time it gets there. The way the nets are today, you can see through them relatively well. I'm good."
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