READING, Pa. - As Opening Day approaches, the Reading Fightin Phils are finding any way they can to improve the fan experience this season. That includes fan safety.
The Fightins have extended safety netting that wraps around home plate and out to the far ends of each dugout. Team officials said it's tough enough to stop a foul ball, but thin enough that it won't take away from the fans' views.
"You did have fans who were adamant they didn't want a net. Part of the reason was the net now is one-third as thick as it used to be, so you can hardly see that the net is even there," said Scott Hunsicker, the Fightins' general manager.
Net changes are coming to ballparks everywhere after a scary incident at Yankee Stadium in September. A toddler was struck by a line-drive foul ball, causing serious injuries. Major League Baseball announced last month that all 30 ot its clubs will now be extending the nets.
"When a ball is sliced off of a check swing right over the dugout, that's a whole different beast," said Hunsicker. "What these nets do is they protect those fans from that immediate line-drive shot."
Other quirks new to Baseballtown this year include new, navy blue seats to freshen up the color palate, and a new section in Box 1 with yellow seats. Fans who have tickets there can enjoy having in-game wait staff, which Hunsicker said is important these days.
"More and more people want waitress service," said Hunsicker. "Will it eventually get to the point where half the stadium has waitress service? Maybe."
The Fightin Phils will return home next Tuesday, when the team plays host to the Lehigh Valley IronPigs for their annual 222 Showcase pre-season game to benefit charity.
The Fightins will open their regular season at home against the Erie SeaWolves at 7:05 p.m. on Thursday, April 5, which will double as Fan Appreciation Night.
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