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Safety First for ‘Topes

Safety First for ‘Topes

Will Isotopes Park's new, extended netting make it more difficult for them to toss balls to fans?

Isotopes Park Netting Going Up for 2016 Season

 

BY EMILY ASHBY

The Albuquerque Isotopes are extending their safety nets to the outfield ends of each dugout for the coming season.

“Fan safety is of the utmost importance to us and we support the commissioners’ recommendations,” said Isotopes General Manager John Traub, referring to recommendations from both Major League Baseball and Minor League Baseball.

With the change, 22 percent of seats at the city-owned Isotopes Park will have protective netting between them and the field.

The move is drawing some criticism.

Isotopes fan Tom Thompson sits about seven rows behind the visitors’ dugout. “I would hate to look through a net.” Thompson said. He believes the chance of getting hit with a foul ball is small. “I have had more instances with lightning than with a baseball,” he said.

Fred Creek, a season ticket holder, prefers a clear view but supports the team’s decision. “Personally, I prefer to watch a game without the protective netting . . . However, I played a lot of organized baseball when I was a young man, so I understand the risks and know the rhythm of the game better than most fans.” Creek said.

Despite posted warnings that fans be alert for foul balls, some fans don’t pay attention to play on the field, Creek said. “I am willing to forgo my pleasure in having an unobstructed view of the game in order to protect the fans who find pleasure visiting with their friends rather than paying attention to baseball,” he said.

Despite the netting, Isotopes spokesman Kevin Collins said players will continue to interact with fans, signing autographs and tossing them balls. Asked how players could toss balls to fans with netting between them, Collins said, “We have no specifics on that. It’s new for everyone.”

The Isotopes’ season begins on April 15 when they face the Tacoma Rainiers. The following night is Holly Holm night. The first 3,000 fans to arrive at the park on April 16 will receive Holly Holm bobblehead dolls.

Despite Holm’s loss of the UFC bantamweight title to Meisha Tate, “Our feelings about Holly have not changed in the slightest,” Collins said. “We’re very proud to share a home city with an incredible athlete like Holly.”

Emily Ashby is an ABQ Free Press editorial intern.

(Photo credit: James Venes)

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Rene Thompson is a staff reporter at ABQ Free Press. Email her at rene@freeabq.com.

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Dennis Domrzalski is managing editor of ABQ Free Press. Reach him at dennis@freeabq.com.