ST. LOUIS -- With a focus on improving fan safety at its ballparks, Major League Baseball released a list of recommendations to all clubs last week regarding improvements in netting, signage and ticket warnings for next season. For the Cardinals, most of those recommendations are already a reality, meaning there will be minimal changes ahead at Busch Stadium with regards to this issue.
Joe Abernathy, vice president of stadium operations for the Cardinals, confirmed that the Cardinals' backstop netting is in compliance with MLB's suggestion that parks implement netting to protect fans in all field-level seats located between the ends of both dugouts and within 70 feet of home plate.
• MLB recommends netting between dugouts
The Cardinals opened Busch Stadium in 2006 with the traditional backstop netting that shielded most lower-level seats between the dugouts from foul balls and bats. Two years later, the ballpark added netting "wings," essentially taking the netting already in place and extending it to both dugouts, albeit not at the same height.
It was with that addition that the Cardinals put themselves in compliance with baseball's current recommendations. However, that does not mean the Cardinals won't go further in addressing potential safety concerns.
"Certainly those areas where we have the lower net -- would it make sense for us to increase that to the full height that we have behind the plate? We'll look at that," Abernathy said. "The area right behind the dugout is also a very important area to pay attention to. People in those first few rows really need to be watching the game because there are a lot of foul balls that go over the top of those dugouts. But according to the Major League Baseball recommendations, [netting] is not required [there]. But it's something we're going to be looking at, and we'll be making decisions here probably within the next month."
MLB has also encouraged teams to increase warnings to fans about the dangers posed by batted balls and bats, as well as to identify ways in which clubs can provide customers with information about whether their seats are or are not behind netting when purchasing tickets online. The Cardinals intend to follow both of those recommendations.
Look for the club to increase its signage down in the field box area and in areas along the perimeter of the netting where foul balls or bats present a potential hazard for patrons. Currently, there are signs only in front of those seating areas.
Abernathy said the ticketing department will work with MLB to enhance their system so that more information is available to fans during the buying process.
While MLB's memo was meant to address concerns at big league ballparks, Abernathy said that the Cardinals will take a closer look at the Triple-A Memphis and Double-A Springfield home parks to identify any potential safety shortcomings. He added that the Cardinals' Spring Training ballpark, Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter, Fla., is already in compliance.
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB, like her Facebook page Jenifer Langosch for Cardinals.com and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.