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Calls for expanded netting echo across MLB after latest fan injury

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Players, managers, and fans are once again calling for extended netting across baseball venues after a young fan was injured by a foul ball during the Chicago Cubs-Houston Astros game.

Cubs outfielder Albert Almora Jr.'s liner down the left-field line hit a child and forced her to go to the hospital. The child was seated in an area not protected by Minute Maid Park's extended netting, which doesn't go beyond the dugouts.

"The events at last night's game were extremely upsetting," Major League Baseball said in a statement Thursday, according to ESPN. "We send our best wishes to the child and family involved. Clubs have significantly expanded netting and their inventory of protected seats in recent years. With last night's event in mind, we will continue our efforts on this important issue."

However, that statement wasn't enough for many around the sport.

"Right now obviously I want to put a net around the whole stadium," Almora said Wednesday, according to Sahadev Sharma of The Athletic.

Several of his teammates, including former MVP Kris Bryant, echoed that call for change.

"There's a lot of kids coming to the games - young kids who want to watch us play - and the balls come in hard," Bryant told ESPN's Jeff Passan. "I mean, the speed of the game is quick, and I think any safety measure we can take to, you know, make sure that the fans are safe, we should do it."

Washington Nationals reliever Sean Doolittle made his case in a Twitter thread on Thursday, citing the need to protect fans from increased exit velocities.

"Guys are throwing harder, so balls in the stands are going at a much higher clip than they used to, and more people (in the stands) are unaware," Texas Rangers manager Chris Woodward told The Athletic's Levi Weaver. "So it's a bad combo. I wouldn't be opposed to nets all the way down (the lines). I don't know if fans would be, because they don't like looking through a net.

"... I've seen 162 games, basically for 25 years. And if (fans) saw what I saw, and they remembered little girls' faces being blown up and kids getting hit in the chest and not breathing, I think they would be OK with it."

Incidents involving fans being struck by batted balls or other objects from the field have been on the rise in recent years. Several scary scenes in 2017, including another young girl who was seriously injured at Yankee Stadium, led to MLB mandating extended netting in all ballparks to cover at least the areas behind each dugout.

A Los Angeles Dodgers fan was killed in August as a result of injuries sustained from being struck in the head by a foul ball at Dodger Stadium, according to a coroner's report obtained by ESPN's Outside The Lines in February.

The condition of the girl who was struck Wednesday in Houston was not immediately known, as the Astros did not provide an update.

"It happened. It happened," Almora said through tears Wednesday. "God willing I'll be able to have a relationship with this little girl for the rest of my life. Just prayers right now. That's all I can really control."

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