EDITORIAL: EXTENDED NETTING’S NOT SO BAD AFTER ALL

By: Chris Collins

Hey, I’m man enough to admit when I’m wrong. When I heard last year that many teams across minor league baseball would be adding extended netting, I was totally against it. My opinion was that if you aren’t paying enough attention to see a flying ball or bat coming your way, you probably deserve what you get.

I mean let’s face it, those of us that go to minor league games to watch the action on the field are probably in the minority. Many people that attend these games we love are there as part of a work function, or a school trip, or simply because they can get beers for a dollar and don’t have much interest in the baseball being played on the field. They’d rather catch a frisbee or take part in one of the seemingly endless on-field promotions than watch a Demi Orimoloye home run or a Neuhaus-to-Lara-to-Gideon double play. But as my good friend Brad Krause always likes to point out to me, if it weren’t for all of the marketing and promotion to get those casual fans out to the park, we diehards probably wouldn’t have a baseball team to watch.

Still, I didn’t find it fair that my view of a baseball game should be disrupted because of the inability of the casual fan to pay attention to the action on the field and I complained to anyone that would listen about the stupidity of adding additional netting. I was convinced it would ruin my view of the action and take away some of the ambiance of feeling closer to the field. To put it lightly, I was not happy about it.

On Saturday I took in my first game of the year in Appleton as the Timber Rattlers squared off with the Quad Cities River Bandits. I grabbed a seat behind the visitor’s dugout, a few rows up, where I had a pretty good view of all of the action and a few innings into the game, Brad popped over to say hello. He was also there, photographing the game for milb.com and after we chatted briefly, he mentioned that he needed to move to another location to shoot from as it was tough for him to shoot through the net. At that point I realized, ‘oh yeah, there’s a net in front of me’.

I had gone over half of the game without realizing there was a net in front of me. I was watching the game. I was focused. I was locked in on the action on the field, but at no point did the thought even cross my mind that there was a net in front of me. It didn’t affect my enjoyment of the game in the slightest.  Didn’t affect my view. Didn’t make me wish I had picked a different seat.  And on top of that, I, as well as everyone around me, was safer for it.

As I thought about what a fuss I made last year, to anyone and everyone that would listen, I was a bit embarrassed and recognized that I was on the wrong side of this particular issue.  Extended netting is a good thing for fans.

Perhaps it’s the fact that I realize I will someday soon have a little guy tearing around the ballpark with me that has changed my mind on this issue, or perhaps it’s just that minor league baseball knew what they were doing here, but whatever the reason, I find myself on the opposite side of the fence now and am thankful for the changes they have made. Sure, it may take a little bit of getting used to, but once you do, you don’t even recognize the netting is there. Do I wish that people would still sit down, pay attention and watch the game? Of course I do. But for their sake and for my sake, I say, job well down MiLB. You were right and I was wrong.