|Baseball's on Field Security Problem|
Written by Jonathan Leshanski (Contact & Archive) on April 16, 2003
Before last night the longest, and most alarming of the incidents occurred during the Expos-Mets series in San Juan where security took more than a minute before even stepping onto the field to chase down two morons with an anti-war sign (for the record, I am referring to the so-called fans that run onto the field, not necessarily anti-war protestors as morons).
That incident proved to me the failings of MLB and park security. Had either of those fans been lunatics with a weapon of some sort we could have easily been talking about a tragedy, rather than the travesty of an unarmed assault.
The attack on umpire Laz Diaz, occurred within yards of where Royals coach Tom Gamboa had been attacked and beaten by two deranged fans last September. Still this is not just Chicago’s or even a White Sox problem (although before the attack three other fans had already been arrested for running onto the field at separate times during the game). Unruly fans occur not just at Major League games, but at the minor league level as well.
Essentially the problem is that if you give a moron (drunken or righteous) a forum where he can be in the limelight for even a moment, many of them will take it. The problem is obviously more glaring in baseball than in other sports because of the affordability of tickets. Unfortunately for most of us the cost of increased security will eventually trickle down to ticket prices.
Giving up beer sales is not a realistic option for Major League Baseball, as too much revenue would be lost and attendance would probably dwindle. So other options will have to be found. I have already heard one wild bit of speculation that perhaps they will use hockey type netting (the clear stuff they’ve put over the ends to block wayward pucks from hitting fans) at field level to block fans from having easy access to the field.
I’m certain other plans, more rational plans, will be discussed. It pains me to think that we should even need to be having this discussion around our national pastime. For the most part, baseball is about the open field, fresh air and a wonderful view of the game. However, the reality is that baseball is a form of show business and show business is full of people who want to be noticed - and some of them don’t care how they get their attention.
Without a solution to this problem and stepped up security both on and off the field, no umpires, players, coaches, or even fans can really be safe - as crazy as it seems. As fans we should be outraged not amused by these individuals and we need to make our displeasure known. Disruptive fans disrupt our game, our heritage and our enjoyment. When they act destructively or violently it becomes even worse, because in the end we will pay the price both financially and in the level of involvement we are allowed with our game.
If you don’t think this is true, take a few minutes to realize how the game has changed and how few players still really want to interact with the fans. Drunken abusive fans alienate the players and the managers causing them to actually have to worry about their own safety. Unfortunately, that necessary concern about their safety eventually translates to their lack of desire to interact with fans, and steals their joy of getting to play the game. Perhaps it is one of the reasons that players now often make fans pay for autographs, because instead of being a pleasure to meet and deal with fans, its become work.
Perhaps that loss of closeness to the players is a higher price to pay than what we will be forced to pay in ticket prices to cover the cost of increased security.