The MLB Owners Meeting in Dallas, Texas wrapped up yesterday with some pretty big news that will impact the 2016 season. For the most part it’s all good and will help improve the sport, fan safety, and fan experience. There is at least one thing that happened yesterday that I’m very excited about.
During the meetings MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred talked about increasing fan safety with the use of additional netting around the ballpark. That’s taken the center stage this offseason because several fans were hit by either foul balls or bats that resulted in severe injuries. Manfred talked about this won’t be an easy issue to address because it will be different at each ballpark. Also, there are several other factors to consider. Here is a snippet of what he said during the meeting.
"“In addition to a recommendation on the physical location of nets, there will be a broad fan education component to the program,” Manfred said at the Fairmont Dallas. “We’ll have more details on that program after the [next] meeting, but there will be a change there.”“A lot of things seem easy that aren’t always,” Manfred said. “Obviously, fan safety is paramount for us. 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.“The toughest issues for us are when we have fans on both sides of the equation. If it’s about fans and, let’s say, revenue, you always try to err on the side of the fan. But if it’s that the fans want ‘X’ on one side and we’re concerned about our fans on the other side, that’s a more difficult balance. 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.” – Paul Hagan – MLB.com"
Some of the most recent incidents happened last season in Boston, Braves, Cardinals, Cleveland, Detroit, Houston, Milwaukee, and other ballparks. This isn’t something new to baseball. Fans have always been in harms way of a line drive or a bat flying loose in the the stands.
Another fan was hit by a broken bat at Fenway park. This fan was carted off and is now suing the Boston Red Sox.
Over the past year several people have been calling for MLB to do something about fan safety including several players. In my opinion something has to be done and MLB is taking the right steps this offseason to make it a reality in 2016. No one wants to go to a game and get hit by a ball or bat and end up in the hospital. I feel like MLB will do their due diligence to make sure it doesn’t diminish the fan experience. If you’re arguing that fans want to catch a foul ball, you should remember that the odds of catching a foul ball are about 1 in 5,000. You can look it up yourself, the stats vary on which one you read. But, my point is you have a slim chance to grab a foul ball. In my experience for almost any game you can grab a game ball from the souvenir shop for about $30 to $50. That’s a better option than leaving the nets down and leaving the chance for another fan to get hit by a foul ball or bat.
Another thing that came from the MLB Owners Meeting in Dallas was the new TV agreement with Fox Sports and 15 teams whose games they carry. Starting in the 2016 fans will be able to basically watch their teams on the devices they choose. MLB has had the ability to watch games streaming online for awhile now with MLB.tv using MLB At-Bat on devices. The downside to the paid subscribtion has been it was only available for out-of-market games. This will now allow fans to watch games on the road, subway or where ever on what the choose.
Manfred said the following about the change.
"“The media landscape is changing very, very rapidly. It’s important for us to make certain our content is available on as many platforms as possible in ways that fans may want to enjoy our games. And I think this is a huge step forward for the industry. I really do.” – Paul Hagan – MLB.com"
In my opinion this is my favorite announcement to come from the MLB Owners meeting. This means people, myself included will always be connected to games. Baseball is a long sport with many games. It’s hard to attend all 81 home games, yet travel to all away games. It’s also difficult to be home in front a TV to watch every game with our busy lives.
This new agreement with the MLB and Fox Sports will allow us to watch on the go, on the road, or from the comfort on the couch with our favorite device. MLB continues to lead the way with their streaming service and I’m one who can’t wait to take advantage of this next season. I’ve had MLB At-Bat for a number of years. I love the service and highly recommend it. I’m going to love being able to watch the Rangers and the Astros next season.