Whitecaps to expand protective netting at Fifth Third Ballpark for fan safety

By West Michigan Whitecaps | February 16, 2016 2:03 PM ET

Comstock Park, MI - Fifth Third Ballpark's 23rd season of baseball is less than two months away! Major League pitchers and catchers report this week, and in just 52 days, the West Michigan Whitecaps will open their 2016 home season as defending Midwest League champions.

Fans who attend Whitecaps games this season will be safer than ever, as the Whitecaps are extending the safety netting down the Fifth Third Ballpark foul lines to further protect fans from flying objects. The protective safety netting, which blocks foul balls and broken bats from vulnerable seating areas, will be expanded to the far end of each dugout. These changes were prompted by increasing safety concerns as evidenced by the recommendations issued by Major League Baseball.

Currently the protective netting covers the sections behind home plate, 114 - 120 and 214 - 220. The expanded netting will provide added protection for the fans sitting on the first base side in sections 112, 113, 212, 213; parts of 111 and 211; and along the third base side in sections 121, 122, 221, 222 and parts of 123 and 223.

In December, Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred recommended that all Major League clubs implement increased netting to further protect fans from balls and bats entering the stands during game action. Minor League Baseball echoed Manfred's call for further protection.

"Minor League Baseball is very appreciative of the time and effort that went into the research done by Major League Baseball in an effort to balance fan safety and the overall fan experience," Minor League President & CEO Pat O'Conner said. "Minor League Baseball clubs strive to offer safe, family-friendly facilities for our fans and these recommendations will help ensure the safety of those fans sitting close to the action." 

"Since 1994, we have strived to provide a safe facility, and the expanded netting is an added safety feature we want to provide for the fans", said Whitecaps Managing Partner and CEO Lew Chamberlin. "Times have changed since our first season. The game is faster and fans have many more personal distractions. We believe the expanded safety netting will keep our fans safer and will provide a better experience at Whitecaps games."

The improvements will be made before the 2016 home opener, which is scheduled for Saturday, April 9 at 4 p.m. against the South Bend Cubs. Season and group tickets are on sale now, while individual game tickets will go on sale next week.

This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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