Netting will be extended to ends of Dodd Stadium dugouts

Norwich — Protective netting at the Thomas J. Dodd Memorial Stadium will be extended to the ends of both dugouts, but may not be installed in time for the Connecticut Tigers' Opening Day on June 22, the Baseball Stadium Authority decided Wednesday.

Under Major League Baseball recommendations released in December, the extended netting would cover half of each dugout at Dodd Stadium — calculated as a 70-foot radius from home plate.

But in discussing possible designs on Wednesday, authority members agreed to extend the protective foul ball netting to cover the entire areas behind the two dugouts.

Authority member Thomas Cummings, a civil engineer, said he would obtain preliminary prices from engineering firms — not his own CLA Engineers firm — and will bring the information to the authority's April 13 meeting.

The project would have to be put out to bid, which likely would put the timing of construction past the June 22 first Connecticut Tigers minor league professional baseball game this year.

Dozens of high school and college games also will be played at Dodd Stadium this spring.

Several minor league teams and stadium authorities also have plans to extend netting to cover entire dugouts and beyond, including the West Michigan affiliate of the Detroit Tigers, Connecticut Tigers General Manager Eric Knighton told the authority.

On Friday, he stepped down as general manager with Assistant General Manager Dave Schermerhorn taking over the top spot.

The issue of extending foul ball protective netting came to the forefront in recent years with several major injuries suffered by fans from line drive foul balls and broken or thrown bats.

State Rep. Emmett Riley, D-Norwich, attended the Norwich stadium authority meeting Wednesday to support the plan to extend netting.

Riley presented written and verbal comments in favor of extending the netting at Dodd Stadium.

“The fan experience is paramount, but their safety is overriding,” Riley wrote in a one-page letter to the authority. “I ask that the authority expedite the construction of appropriate required netting so Dodd Stadium does not become the next venue of a tragic accident.”

Riley also suggested the Tigers and the stadium authority launch a campaign to increase fan awareness of the dangers of errant balls and bats both in the stands and on the concourse at Dodd Stadium.

He said more warning signs and public address announcements could be made during games, and ticket booth sales staff could inform fans if they are buying tickets in sections vulnerable to foul balls.

Glenn Carberry, the Norwich resident credited most for bringing minor league baseball to Norwich, has had season tickets in the front row behind the first base dugout at Dodd Stadium since the stadium opened in 1995.

Carberry, an attorney, said Thursday he understands why Major League Baseball and the Norwich Baseball Stadium Authority are pushing for extended netting.

“Everybody would agree we want fans and families to have a safe experience at Dodd Stadium,” Carberry said.

He said people who find that the netting interferes with their view of the game could arrange to switch seats. All seats at the stadium, Carberry said, “bring you close to the action of professional baseball.”

“I'm confident the team management can work it out,” Carberry said.

c.bessette@theday.com

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