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"I don't know if there's an easy solution," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "I know where I want my family, and that's behind the nets. I've seen too much."
In an e-mail to The Associated Press, MLB spokesman Pat Courtney said "it is a team-by-team issue regarding how much netting to have at each ballpark. With each ballpark configured differently, the clubs decide what is appropriate regarding fencing."
The NHL held a similar stance until March 18, 2002.
It wasn't until after 13-year-old Brittanie Cecil died two days after being struck in the head by an errant slap shot off the stick of Columbus Blue Jackets forward Espen Knutsen that the NHL issued a mandate requiring its teams to put up netting behind the goals to protect fans.
"I certainly became a believer after what I went through," Doug MacLean, the Blue Jackets general manager at the time, told The Associated Press in a telephone interview. "And I went through nothing compared to what Brittanie's parents went through."
Not everyone thinks more netting is a good idea.
Gardenhire expressed some concern about the team's new stadium in Minnesota. The nets extend from dugout to dugout, which team president Dave St. Peter said is "about average" length when compared across the league.
"The reality is our fans don't want to sit behind the net," St. Peter said. "It's the balance between safety and delivering the best experience for our fans."
Ken and Debbie Carpenter of Windermere, Fla., were season-ticket holders at Cleveland Indians spring games for 17 years. That ended when the Indians installed more netting from the top of the screen behind the catcher down to the end of the dugouts on both baselines at their new home in Goodyear, Ariz., last spring.
"You can't take clear pictures, get autographs, catch a foul ball, and the entire baseball experience is gone," Ken Carpenter said.
MacLean heard the same complaints from hockey fans in the initial days after the nets went up. He disagreed, instead recalling a phone conversation he had with Brittanie's father the morning after her death.
"I said, 'If there's anything I can do,'" MacLean said. "He said, 'Yeah, get some nets up.' That hit home like a sledgehammer."
MacLean said he understood that baseball teams do not want to hinder the sight lines for fans. The NHL was the same way. Gradually, fans grew used to watching a game through the netting, and eight years later they are as natural to the game as a Zamboni.
He hopes another baseball team, and another family, doesn't have to go through what the Blue Jackets and Cecils have endured before changes are made.
"It stays with you," MacLean said, "forever."
Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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