MLB closer to new recommendations for safety nets for 2016

(AP) — Major League Baseball is close to new recommendations for safety netting at its stadiums for the 2016 season.

Commissioner Rob Manfred said Thursday that it “absolutely clear” there will be changes. He said there was more work to be done, and that he wasn’t prepared to go into details.

“In addition to a recommendation on the physical location of nets, there will be a broad fan education component to the program,” Manfred said after owners wrapped up their quarterly meeting.

There were several instances of fans injured by foul balls at MLB games this year. The commissioner said fan safety is paramount.

Manfred said the 30 clubs encouraged MLB to move forward conceptually and that there is an understanding of the outlines of the plans. But he didn’t want to elaborate until having those details “down in writing.” That should be done by time the owners meet again in January.

“Today was a conversation, it was not us coming in, ‘Here’s what we’re going to do,'” he said.

“A lot of things seem easy and are not always so easy,” he said. “We want our fans to be safe in the ballpark, but we also have lots of fans who are very vocal about the fact that they don’t like to sit behind nets. … We’re trying to reach an appropriate balance on the topic, recognizing that it’s complicated by the fact that not every stadium is laid out exactly the same way.”

In other items addressed over the 2 1-2 days that owners met at a downtown Dallas hotel:

— Manfred said stadium security, in the wake of terrorist attacks in France and threats to the United States, will be a focal point when the owners meet in January. “We’re fortunate because we’re not playing right now,” he said. “Obviously, we’ve got a little time.”

— Manfred said that MLB and Fox have reached a three-year agreement on in-market streaming of games for the 15 teams whose rights are held by that media company. He said conversations have begun and will continue with the media rights holders of the other 15 teams in hope to have a comprehensive in-market streaming program.

— In regards to possible changes about sliding plays at second base, Manfred said the owners’ competition committee recommended moving ahead with discussions with the players association “with a view toward altering the rule” for such plays.

— The Pittsburgh Pirates and Miami Marlins will play two games in San Juan, Puerto Rico. The series May 30-31 will also host the league’s Roberto Clemente Day celebration.

— ESPN will provide national coverage of seven games the first two days of the regular seasons, with three games on Sunday, April 3, and four more games on Monday, April 4. Those games will include all 10 teams that made the playoffs last season.

— All games on the final day of the regular season will begin at 3 p.m. ET, as they did last season. Manfred said baseball was “really pleased with the effects of that particular change, and the type of interest that it drove on the last day of the season.”

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