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A scary incident Saturday at a spring training game between the Atlanta Braves and Pittsburgh Pittsburgh provided a perfect example of why Major League Baseball encouraged its teams in the offseason to extend protective netting at ballparks down the baselines within 70 feet of home plate.




A boy seated behind the Braves' dugout on the first-base side was looking down at his cell phone and didn't see Pittsburgh outfielder Danny Ortiz lose his grip on his bat during a swinging strike. The bat flew into the stands and would have hit the boy squarely in the face if not for a man seated next to him who extended his arm in front of the boy stopping the bat inches from the boy's face.

Well done, sir.

While it's not often that bats going flying into the stands at games, it does happen and fans, especially those seated close to the action, need to be aware of the possibility and paying attention. Same with foul balls, which are much more likely to find you in the stands. That said, so many of us carry phones with us everywhere we go and it's easy in this day and age to be distracted by a text, call or email from a friend or family member. It's easy to see why MLB made the suggestion for more protection for fans.

MLB did not mandate the change and only some teams have decided to add more netting before the 2016 season. Atlanta is one of those teams. The Braves are extending the 35-foot screens behind the plate all the way to the dugout this season. Other teams such as the Royals, Twins, Rangers and Nats have announced changes at their parks, too.

Baseball decided to address the issue after a handful of fans suffered serious injuries last season at various ballparks when they were struck with foul balls.

Protective netting isn't always enough to prevent someone from being injured though. Fans also must be diligent about paying attention to what is happening on the field. A woman was hit in the head by a baseball at PNC Park in Pittsburgh last season when she was standing with her back to the game. She was too close to the protective netting and a foul ball just happened to hit the netting right behind her head.

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