Extended netting makes its debut at Guaranteed Rate Field: 'Enough is enough'

Extended netting makes its debut at Guaranteed Rate Field: 'Enough is enough'

The All-Star break is over, the White Sox have completed a 10-game road trip, and the South Side is hosting Major League Baseball games again. This time, though, with a new feature.

Monday, the White Sox unveiled extended protective netting stretching from one foul pole to the other, shielding fans sitting in the stands from foul balls screaming off the bats of the best hitters in the world.

Fans getting hit with batted balls has, unfortunately, been a recurring talking point this season. Cubs outfielder Albert Almora Jr. lined a foul ball that hit a young fan during a game in Houston. Guaranteed Rate Field has seen multiple instances of fans being hit with foul balls this season. And across the game the increased exit velocities are producing more dangerous projectiles entering the seating area.

Extending the protective netting, which Major League Baseball currently mandates needs to reach only to the end of the dugouts, seems like a no-brainer, and the White Sox acted quickly to do just that.

“It’s a great idea,” White Sox relief pitcher Evan Marshall said before Monday night’s game. “It’s a shame it wasn’t done sooner and just almost the standard across baseball, I think. Finally the players are kind of speaking out because everybody is tired of seeing people get hit.

“I get it. You can make the argument it takes away from the fan experience, the whole chance to get a foul ball. But I don’t know. Enough is enough. People are getting crushed in the stands. It happens to a little kid, it just devastates you.”

Players in the White Sox clubhouse have been vocal about the need for extended netting since the incident involving Almora and repeated their desire to see it implemented after the team announced their intent to do so last month. The issue’s not going away, either, with Cleveland Indians shortstop Francisco Lindor recently speaking out after a similar occurrence involving a 3-year-old fan in Ohio.

Now the nets are up on the South Side, and again, it seems like a no-brainer of a decision.

Certainly there will be those opposed, as Marshall alluded to, though even in person, the nets don’t do much in the way of blocking views from the stands.


But any change is often enough to set off some fans. Still, White Sox spokesman Scott Reifert said the reaction to the team’s move has been positive.

“The reaction we've seen so far has been really positive,” he said Monday. “People understand that the ballpark experience has changed from just a few years ago. Pitchers throw harder, balls come off bats harder, people are spending more time looking down at their phones — we're all guilty of that — or at the scoreboard. And so I think safety matters to folks.

“I think overall it's been a positive reaction. … If you look, it's light colored, it doesn't really seem to impact (the view). We've tested, we've sat in seats, and we don't think the impact will be very dramatic for most people.”

The bottom line is the safety of the fans. And though some will make the tired argument that fans should pay closer attention to the game, that’s simply an impossibility in these times — and it’s potentially meaningless, too, as White Sox pitcher Lucas Giolito has brought up in the past that it’s impossible for players in the dugout to avoid these hard-hit balls, and they’re playing plenty of attention.

Just ask White Sox pitching prospect Ian Hamilton, who was hit by a batted ball while sitting in the dugout earlier this season. That ended his season, as he’ll require multiple procedures to repair the damage to his face.

“Dude, no matter how much you're paying attention to the game, if that thing's coming in 115 miles an hour with tail, no matter if you have a glove this big, it could hit you right in the forehead,” Giolito said when the netting was announced in June. “For me, being around baseball for so long, I think it's a smart move because it just keeps people safe. I hate seeing young kids get hit, having to go to the hospital. It just leaves a sick feeling in all of our stomachs. At the end of the day, I think it's the right move.”

For those autograph-seekers concerned with how the new netting might affect access to players before games, the White Sox left the door open for changes in the future. Think of the remainder of the 2019 season as a test run with the new netting, which can be tinkered with before the 2020 campaign rolls around.

“One of our approaches is: Let's see over the next two months,” Reifert said. “Fans are going to adapt, players are going to adapt. Let's see what happens, and then we can make decisions about next year moving forward.”

One interesting wrinkle is what effect the extended netting will have on the game itself. According to Reifert, the nets will effectively serve as a wall in foul territory (think of the brick walls at Wrigley Field). A batted ball that hits the net on the fly becomes an instant foul ball, which might take away a few flyouts from the left fielder. But a batted ball that bounces in fair territory and then bounces into the net is live, potentially taking away a few ground-rule doubles.

But, of course, the main takeaway here is the increased level of safety for fans attending games at Guaranteed Rate Field. White Sox fans will get the first taste of what this extended netting looks like. Don’t be surprised if it reaches every stadium in the game soon after.

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'Island' in the sun: Right field seats get a new look, sponsor at Guaranteed Rate Field

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WHITE SOX

'Island' in the sun: Right field seats get a new look, sponsor at Guaranteed Rate Field

The right-field seats might be the spot to sit this summer at Guaranteed Rate Field.

The White Sox announced a rebranding and redesign of the seats in the right-field corner sponsored by Goose Island Beer Company on Monday. Dubbed "The Goose Island," the seating area will be surrounded by running water fixtures and feature leather cushion seats. The Craft Kave is also getting a new Goose Island sponsorship.

Some more details from the White Sox:

"'The Goose Island' transforms two outfield seating sections into a new space, featuring a variety of seating options. Rows will include field-level views, group party areas and individual seating as well as a fun, social space in a few standing-room rows near the outfield concourse. All areas of 'The Island' will have in-seat service. A total of 326 seats will be available in the section.

"The first few rows of 'The Goose Island' will provide a modernized experience for fans with leather cushion seats complete with armrests and cup holders, device charging ports, television screens and shelves for storage. Seats for this area include in-seat service and $20 of loaded value with each ticket to be spent in-park on food, beverages or merchandise from the White Sox."

Sounds nice. Here's how it will look:

So there you go. On this horrendous winter morning in Chicago, what sounds better than baseball and beer?

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A wish come true: Alex Estrada spends a day with the White Sox

A wish come true: Alex Estrada spends a day with the White Sox

The White Sox added a young talent to their roster before Wednesday night’s game against the Indians.

Seven-year-old Alex Estrada, who is battling stage-4 neuroblastoma, shined in his major league debut.

Estrada was at his daycare when the White Sox mascot, Southpaw, appeared with a limousine. The two headed for Guaranteed Rate Field where his dream would become a reality.

As part of Sox Serve Week, the team wanted to surprise Estrada, who has undergone countless cancer treatments. Even his father, Vince, did not know about the plan.

From playing video games with players like Yolmer Sanchez to receiving his own locker, for one day, Alex was an actual member of the team. To confirm his place in the clubhouse, the White Sox even gave Alex a jersey with his bolded name on the back.

Prior to the start of the game, Alex showcased his baseball talent during warmups on the field. He got his first taste of the big leagues when he ran a home run for life race around the bases while giving Indians and White Sox team members high fives down the first-base and third-base lines.

After sliding into home plate safely, Alex, still panting from the long run around the bases, was embraced by his father. Most importantly, Alex’s contagious smile, which permeated throughout the ballpark, never left his face.

Check out the video of Alex’s special moment above.