Back in 2000, during the height of the Sports Illustrated-influenced character assassination of me, rumors were rampant “John Rocker Battery Day” was going to be held in New York when the Braves opened up a series with the Mets.
My return to baseball from a suspension to start the season that year was greeted by heavy boos from the Mets’ fans and more than 700 police officers at the game to keep Energizer or Duracell batteries from becoming missiles aimed at my head.
Those projectiles from the stands never came (as they did the 1999 NLCS against the Mets, though the boos were deafening that night). However, I did pitch a scoreless eighth inning in the first game to help Atlanta to a 6-4 win.
Back in late 1999 to early 2000, the mainstream media turned my comments to Sports Illustrated into the equivalent of the early moments of the Darren Wilson-Michael Brown situation in Ferguson plus the reaction by the media to the Indiana Religious Freedom Restoration Act plus the initial fury at the University of Virginia fraternity libeled by the Rolling Stone article accusing members of rape (which turned out to be a lie).
Even with all of this, there were no metal detectors placed outside Shea Stadium in New York City to ensure that “John Rocker Battery Day” didn’t come to fruition.
In looking around the Web, I came across an old transcript for a CNN show called “Talkback Live,” where the subject of “John Rocker Battery Day” was being discussed. The hosts were discussing the precautions taken by the Mets to make sure nothing out of the ordinary transpired. Notice what was not placed at each gate where fans entered the stadium:
BATTISTA: By the way, Frank, are they searching people when they go into the stadium tonight? Is that part of the security precautions?
BUCKLEY: They said that’s one thing they might do. It’s unlikely that they are going to search every single person that walks in. They are not using metal detectors. But I can tell you again, with the level of security here, it will be difficult for someone to get through and do anything too horrible. For example, in the bullpen area, which is where John Rocker will be, they’ve set up a special security arrangement with – put up a plywood canopy over the warm-up area.
They’ve put up some black fencing between the bleachers and that warm-up area. I just walked out there a little while ago and noticed that one guy was still painting the fence black. So, they’ve put in some security. I just walked through the stadium and also saw a couple of bomb-sniffing dogs walking through. So, they are doing quite a bit here in terms of security.
For a pre-9/11 world, I’d say that’s quite a lot of security measures undertaken to make sure “John Rocker Battery Day” didn’t occur, but notice how no metal detectors were deployed for the game.
Fifteen years later, Major League Baseball (MLB) – after conferring with the Department of Homeland Security – has issued a new mandate for all of the league’s 30 stadiums to install walk-through metal detectors at every gate.
Every fan, from a young boy attending his first MLB game with his father to an octogenarian going to his 65th straight opening day game at Wrigley Field in Chicago, will now have to walk through a metal detector like some visitor to a prison.
If this isn’t a sad indicator of the state of America in 2015, I’m not sure what else could convince you something is seriously wrong with the culture in our country.
Here’s how Joe Abernathy, the vice president of operations for the St. Louis Cardinals, described this grotesque inconvenience, as if the storyline from the Robert de Niro/Wesley Snipes movie “The Fan” is poised to come to life soon:
“On the one hand, everybody will now have to go through a security screening,” Abernathy said Thursday. “But walking through a detector will be faster than getting scanned with a wand.”
Abernathy said passing through detectors at Busch will be a lot easier than doing so at Lambert Airport. “You won’t have to take off your shoes and belt, like at the airport. But you will have to take out your cellphone and your keys and set them on a table.”
Cardinals fans outside Busch Stadium on Thursday accepted the enhanced security as a sensible, if depressing, development.
Rob Gottlob, a lifelong Cardinals fan from North Carolina, stopped by Busch with his family Thursday on his way to visit family in his hometown of Alton.
“It’s sad that it has come to this, but with (terrorist) groups like ISIS out there, you have to think about safety,” Gottlob, 45, said.
Karri and Tobias Thomason, of Peoria, Illinois, were sipping beer at Ballpark Village across from the stadium. The couple were visiting St. Louis to mark their fourth wedding anniversary.
Karri Thomason, 23, said she felt conflicted about the detectors. “It’s another intrusion in the name of security, and I wonder if it would really stop someone intent on wreaking havoc,” she said. “But I do recognize the team’s need to try to protect fans.”
Nice job, Mr. Abernathy, with the attempt to rationalize the situation at a baseball game to the horror and true inconvenience of being treated like a potential terrorist by the TSA before you fly.
And Mr. Gottlob, America wouldn’t face a terrorist threat from ISIS if we simply used the same type of technology used by the NSA to spy on Americans to actually screen refugees, asylum seekers and immigrants for any connection to a terrorist organization, if we just ceased allowing immigration from nations where ISIS or Islamic-inspired jihad is a threat, and, of course, if we actually allowed the Border Patrol to do its job and patrol our wide-open border with Mexico where Islamic terrorist have crossed.
Such sensible actions are, of course, an insensible suggestion to ending the terror threat to Americans, so why not sacrifice the freedoms of everyone and instead consider all Americans potential suspectsin the ongoing War on Terror?
Sacrificing freedom for security is about as un-American as considering soccer to be the national pastime.
It’s my hope we all live to see the day when metal detectors are removed from MLB stadiums, so a father doesn’t have to explain to his son why some stranger is patting him down and they miss the first pitch.
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