FARGO, ND --- When gates opened for the first home game in 2017, fans of the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks were treated to a clearer and safer view of the action at Newman Outdoor Field.
Over the offseason, the RedHawks’ brass decided to invest in a new state of the art net, something President Brad Thom said he had wanted for some time.
“I’ve wanted to do it for awhile now, part of it just came down to the life cycle of the net. Obviously you don’t want get of rid of a net before it's done with it’s life cycle but coming into this year the timing was just right and we decided it was time and so far I’m very happy with it.”
After looking at a couple of different options, management decided to go with Netex, a company based in British Columbia. One of the biggest advantages the Canadian company offered was the ability to leave the net up year round. Netex nets are made with Dyneema a durable material that should stand the harsh Fargo winters and the hot summer sun for at least 10 years.
“It makes thing a lot easier on our grounds crew, “ said Thom. “They won’t have to take it down in the fall or set it up in the spring which will allow us to be much more efficient.”
The new net is 314 ft and 3 inches long, stretching along the previously uncovered first and third base lines. Although the new design cuts down on about 90% of line drive foul balls, there were a number of fans who were anxious about having reduced visibility. Thom believes those fans aren’t worried about it anymore.
“After the first game I think everyone kind of adjusted” said Thom. “Nobody’s having problems seeing. Each mesh hole is 1 ¾” which is bigger than most baseball nets and everyone is a lot safer. Plus, it’s not like you can’t go home with a foul ball. There are still popups, there's just not the screaming line drives like there used to be.”
The net isn’t just longer, it’s taller, which is something that members of the press box are thankful for. On July 23rd of 2016, RedHawks star Josh Mazzola hit a foul ball over the top of the net that had so much velocity it broke the viewfinder on top of the press box camera and continued to slam into and dent the back wall of the room. Chad Ekren, the RedHawks Media Production Manager, was thankful that nobody was injured on the play.
“It really could’ve done some damage, I’m glad nobody was hurt,” said Ekren.
Unfortunately, the viewfinder was completely destroyed. In order to honor the camera’s memory Ekren decided to head to the dugout after the game and have Mazzola sign the famous foul ball with an added inscription reading, “RIP camera 7/23/16”. The ball is still proudly displayed in the press box as a fun memento but it also serves as a reminder of why it’s just as important to invest in safety as it is in aesthetics when dealing with a ballpark.