With the outfield at Oriole Park at Camden Yards turning into a track meet for trespassers, the team has decided to hire private security guards to augment the Baltimore Police officers working the game.
According to Comcast Sportsnet Baltimore, the private guards started working Monday. They wear white shirts and khaki pants, and line the field before the game and between innings. City police officers continue to work the games in their usual role.
"Really, the thing that got us to this point — I wouldn’t say it’s an embarrassment — it’s just not acceptable. We’re not willing to put our players in jeopardy of any kind of security risk," said Kevin Cummings, the Orioles' director of ballpark operations. "The team's playing well. We just want people to focus on that."
The Orioles have had a problem with trespassers this season: on Opening Day, Mark Harvey ran around wearing a cape and Batman underwear and was let off without charges. He became a YouTube sensation and did a host of media interviews.
A few games later, Zachary Gregoricus took the field, slid into second base and got chewed out by O's centerfielder Adam Jones. Prosecutors weren't as lenient with Gregoricus, charging him with two counts of trespassing, disorderly conduct, and disturbing the peace.
Baltimore Police working at Oriole Park have had a policy of refraining from chasing field trespassers, not wanting to "become part of the spectacle," as one official told me two years ago, which is code for, "We'll look stupid if we chase after him and can't catch him." Plus, the officers are wearing bulky equipment and aren't in as great of shape as the 20-year-old drunks who will judge their time on the field by how long they can elude capture.
But that has led to some ridiuclous moments, such as in June 2010 when a guy ran around for two minutes untouched until perhaps realizing no one might ever catch him and giving up. And then last month, a guy ran around for so long that umpire Jeff Kellogg determined he'd do something about it and tackled the man, Christopher Fatkin.
Jones vented to reporters about how the incidents were handled:
"I don’t like the way the cops go after them here. I know it’s not their call. I know the rules; they want them to create a circle or seal. Those kids are running all around those guys. No disrespect to the cops, but go get this dude, put your knee in his throat and tie his [butt] up, simple as that."
Now, the private security force will be there to give chase or at least multiply efforts to slowly surround trespassers, with police there to slap on the handcuffs.
Jones, the center fielder, had advocated bringing in the K-9 units. Any consideration there?
“No," said Cummings, the director of ballpark operations. "We think the supplemental procedures we’re putting in place now will do the trick. … And hopefully, the fans will realize they don’t belong on the field.”
The Sun's Steve Gould contributed to this article.