Last September, Kansas City Royals’ first base coach Tom Gamboa was attacked by two fans during a game in Chicago against the White Sox.
He has hearing loss in his right ear as a result of the incident.
On April 15, Gamboa and the Royals made their return to U.S.
Cellular Field (then Comiskey Park), and before the game, reporters asked Gamboa about the incident. He wasn’t worried.
“Lightning doesn’t strike twice,” he said.
It came perilously close after three separate incidents in which fans ran out onto the field.
Then in the eighth inning, 24-year-old Eric Dybas ran onto the field and attacked first base umpire Lan Diaz.
Diaz was not hurt, as he was able to shake off his attacker as players and security rushed to his aid.
Now, Major League Baseball is promising to take serious measures to ensure that lightning doesn’t strike a third time.
But Commissioner Bud Selig and his staff must be careful not to punish the well-behaved fans for the actions of a few idiots.
One suggestion is to stop beer sales in all Major League ballparks.
But this would be unfair to fans that drink responsibly, and cost the league millions of dollars in lost revenue.
With the already sad state of baseball’s economics, the league will be forced to find a way to compensate for this lack of revenue, which would likely come in the form of increased ticket prices.
Another proposal is to surround the field with mesh netting or chicken wire fencing, forming a barrier to keep fans from the playing area.
But this greatly diminishes the fan-player interaction that makes baseball our national pastime.
There would be no more players signing autographs between innings and no more foul balls for young kids to catch.
There are ways to improve ballpark security, without ruining the fan’s experience.
In the National Football League, security personnel stand between the stands and the field, facing the fans at all times.
An obvious problem with baseball adopting this strategy is that foul territory is in play and security could interfere.
Still, security could position itself at the base of the rows leading down to the field, and keep an eye on fans that way.
Finally, it is imperative that ushers do a better job of making sure that fans that do not belong in on-field seating do not have access to those areas.
Most fans who sit in this part of stadiums are season ticket holders, who are unlikely to behave in a way that would put their ticket privileges in jeopardy.
But other fans try to move down to better seats as the game wanes.
Reports indicate that Dybas did exactly that.
The more that security can minimize traffic in the lower level, the more secure the field will be.
After the attacks in Chicago something radical must be done to eliminate future situations that endanger players, coaches and umpires.
But Major League Baseball should be sure not to punish the vast majority of fans who are well-behaved.
There are solutions for enhancing security, while still allowing fans to enjoy an affordable, relaxing day at the ballpark.
Jesse Chadderdon can be reached at email@example.com.