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Illinois U.S. senators send Rob Manfred letter over fan safety concerns

U.S. Senators Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth, both of whom represent the State of Illinois, recently sent a joint letter to MLB commissioner Rob Manfred in which a plea is made for more protective netting in every major league ballpark.

The letter, obtained exclusively by the Chicago Sun-Times, lays out the Senators’ case concerning how all 30 MLB teams should extend netting further down the right- and left-field lines.

“Cleary, more needs to be done to put the safety of fans first,” Democratic senators Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth wrote in the letter delivered to Manfred on Thursday.

With players hitting balls with exit velocities topping off at more than 100 mph, the two senators cited a Bloomberg analysis, which found that nearly 1,800 fans suffer foul ball-related injuries while attending games each season.

“Extended netting could help prevent many of these injuries,” they wrote.

There has been an outbreak of high-profile cases of fans getting seriously injured at major-league ballparks, typically by line-drive foul balls that are hit into the stands beyond the league-mandated length of netting.

Perhaps most notable of these incidents came in May when a two-year-old girl was critically injured by a foul ball off the bat of Chicago Cubs outfielder Albert Amora Jr. during a game at the Houston Astros’ Minute Maid Park.

An attorney retained by the toddler’s family relayed troubling details of her ongoing recovery nearly a month later. According to hospital records, she sustained a skull fracture along with associated subdural bleeding, among other injuries, and continues to suffer from seizures.

The Chicago White Sox became the first team to announce protective netting will be extended in their home ballpark. The Washington Nationals, Texas Rangers and Pittsburgh Pirates have also announced plans to do the same.

“We appreciate the efforts MLB and individual teams have taken so far for the safety of fans,” Durbin and Duckworth wrote. “However, it is clear the current extended netting is not sufficient to protect fans from serious injury or death. We hope all teams will follow the leadership of the White Sox, Nationals, Dodgers, and Rangers in this matter.”