WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – One by one, workers are hanging and tying each piece of safety netting across the field at the Wichita Wind Surge stadium. Although the net is thin, it can be a lifesaver.
“When pitches are thrown at 100 miles an hour, they’re hit at 140 miles an hour, and it’s virtually impossible to react that quickly,” said Lou Schwechheimer, team owner.
According to a report from NBC News, over 800 fans have been injured by foul balls at major league baseball games since 2012.
Last year, a 2-year-old girl was hit by a foul ball at a Houston Astros game. This week, her attorney says she will have permanent brain injury. Schwechheimer says incidents like that are one reason why his team is adding the netting from foul pole to foul pole. They are the first team in minor league baseball to do so.
“You might be chatting with a friend having a soda or a beer and a hot dog and not even see the play and next thing you know the ball is in the crowd and injuries happen,” Schwechheimer said.
The workers for the project, install netting systems for major and minor league teams across the country. They say this one stands out.
“This particular netting system to my knowledge is the biggest most square foot wise of any park that we know of,” said Josh Hicks, owner of the sports installation company. Hicks added that the nets are 98% see-through.
The nets reach across 900 feet and are 40 feet high. They are designed to protect every single seat in the stadium. “We’ve become one of the nation’s leaders, and I think several clubs have followed our path and are announcing now that they’re doing safety netting now,” said Schwechheimer.
The safety netting is expected to be completed by Saturday, Jan. 11. The home opener for the Wind Surge is April 14.