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Jeff McNeil introduces a new use for the protective netting at Guaranteed Rate Field

CHICAGO – New York Mets rookie Jeff McNeil insists he would have dove into the stands at Guaranteed Rate Field, regardless of whether there was netting.

Eloy Jiménez lofted a fly ball down the right-field line in the fifth inning of Thursday’s 4-0 win over the White Sox, and McNeil caught it steps before the low wall. The converted outfielder then launched himself into the netting before bouncing back onto the field while showing the ball.

And no one was injured.

“I knew the net was there. I knew it was going to be really close,” McNeil said. “Caught it, jumped up, that fence is really low too so you don’t want to try to stop there. Best-case scenario there was jump into the net and use it for our protection.”

The Chicago White Sox were the first team to extend netting from foul pole-to-pole last month in the aftermath of a woman being hit by a foul ball at the stadium. There are more and more calls for extended netting to help keep the fans protected from rockets down the lines.

Other teams, like the Washington Nationals, have followed suit.

The netting at Guaranteed Rate Field protected Jeff McNeil during his catch on Wednesday. (AP)

Due to the low walls in foul territory at Guaranteed Rate Field, the netting also will help keep players healthy since it will prevent them from falling into the stands. McNeil would have put himself at risk for an injury while trying to record an out for starter Zack Wheeler.

McNeil leaves it all on the field, which has led to him getting dinged up at times.

He jumped into the net with his right knee forward and then turned his right shoulder while crashing into the netting, and then bounced onto his feet.

“It would have been unfortunate for people in the front row, but I’m going into the stands on that,” said McNeil, who is a top contender to win the NL batting title. “Kind of fun. Seen catchers and stuff go into the net. It’s gonna spring you back in.”

The play even inspired Mets manager Mickey Callaway, who has avoided taking a definitive stance on the calls for more netting, to acknowledge the benefits of extended netting.

“That was awesome. All fields should have that,” Callaway said. “It actually saved him from maybe getting hurt, you commit, you dive into a soft net, like falling into a trampoline at a circus or something. Not only saving the fans but maybe we’re saving players.”

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