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Why ‘pay attention to the game’ is a dumb argument against extended netting

Washington Nationals v Philadelphia Phillies

PHILADELPHIA, PA - APRIL 07: New protective netting stretches the length of the dugout to protect fans at Citizens Bank Park before the Philadelphia Phillies Opening Day game against the Washington Nationals on April 7, 2017 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images)

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As is always the case when a fan is injured by a foul ball a conversation about protective netting has emerged in baseball over the past couple of days. As is always the case when that conversation emerges, the first argument of people who are against extending protective netting is “if people would simply pay attention to the game this wouldn’t be a problem.”

Typically my response to that is to note that there are a lot of distractions at a baseball game. Vendors. Scoreboard information and entertainment. The MLB app itself which encourages use and interaction with your phone during a game. Conversations with people near you. Between that and the fact that the seats are closer to the action than ever and the fact that balls come screaming off of bats at over 100 m.p.h., giving someone as little as two seconds to react, it’s simply unrealistic to expect thousands of people to pay such close attention that they’re never at risk.

My friend Jeff Snider of Baseball Essential, however, has an even better response to that: you can be paying super close attention to the game and still be at risk. It all just depends on what you’re paying attention to:

So, anti-netters: in addition to not paying attention to people, scoreboards, phones or anything else, should fans at the game also not pay attention to defense and base-running? Inquiring minds would like to know!

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