Earlier this year, the White Sox joined the rest of major league baseball in promising to extend protective netting around the field. The past few seasons have seen a rise in fans getting struck by hard foul balls, drawing calls from fans and the media to add additional safety for those at the ballpark. In an age of increasing foul ball speed, and with MLB actively encouraging fans to look down at their electronic devices with things like the MLB.com Ballpark App, available for free download in the Android and iPhone app stores, simply telling fans to pay attention is no longer good enough.
The White Sox have promised to go above and beyond to improve fan safety and enjoyment. ”Fans coming to the park shouldn’t have to worry about getting hurt. We want to create an environment they can enjoy,” the team said in a prepared release.
That’s why the White Sox have vowed to extend the protective netting all the way around the field on days when James Shields pitches, using a material so dense that no light or sound may pass through it.
”We expect this to be a real boon to attendance,” the statement continues.
Given the hazards of attending a game last season, the move is sure to be welcomed by fans. Calls for such protective measures only increased throughout the 2017 season, and swelled to new heights after an incident last June.
On June 24, with the Oakland Athletics visiting the South Siders, 38,618 fans suffered injuries to their eyes and brains as a result of being exposed directly to the pitching of James Shields without a protective barrier separating them from the field.
In addition to the increased safety netting, the White Sox will be introducing further changes to the game experience to help promote an atmosphere of safety and fun:
- If a game in which James Shields pitches becomes so loud that fans may risk ear damage from hearing the horrors beyond the barrier, the song “Kiss from a Rose” by Seal will play over the stadium speakers.
- If a game in which James Shields pitches becomes so violent that fans may risk sight damage without averting their eyes from the field, the scoreboard will show a variety of cute animal videos, like the one where a goose and a dog somehow become unlikely friends, or a kitten struggles to stay awake while eating its dinner.
- If a game in which James Shields pitches induces any even the mildest “wave” of nausea rolling from section to section, all vendors will be required to smile and say “Everything is fine!” when approached, and any who fail to meet this requirement will be quickly removed from the public section of the stadium.
To ensure that fans are aware of the new safety measures, and to make up for past crimes against the fan base, a promotional giveaway will take place during the first James Shields home start this season. The first 10,000 fans at the park will receive a Klein bottle made from the new netting material, branded on the outside with the Sox logo and with a plush doll of James Shields trapped within, forever beyond the impenetrable barrier and unable to escape.
The official date for the giveaway will be announced on March 29.
In 36 career games at Sox Park without a protective netting all the way around the field using opaque screens so dense that no light or sound can penetrate them, James Shields has logged a 4.52 ERA over 213 innings, with 160 strikeouts, 82 walks, 45 home runs allowed, one intentional walk, one balk, and 14 wild pitches.
James Shields has pitched in zero career games at Sox Park with a protective netting all the way around the field using opaque screens so dense that no light or sound can penetrate them, compiling a perfect 0.00 ERA over zero innings, with no strikeouts, walks, home runs allowed, intentional walks, balks, or wild pitches.
If the new safety measures are as effective as planned, the White Sox say fans won’t be aware that James Shields has pitched at all.
Brett Ballantini contributed statistical research to this story.