Major league ballparks beef up security with metal detectors
PHILADELPHIA (AP) Baseball fans are taking their first swings at the sport's new security guidelines.
Forget shelling out cash for $30 tickets, $9 beers and $16 parking charges. Major League Baseball fans have more reason to empty their pockets, only this time of keys, mobile phones - and whatever loose change might be left - before a day at the ballpark.
MLB morphed into the TSA when it told its 30 teams they had to implement security screening in time for opening day. All fans are expected to walk through metal detectors at all entrance gates, no exceptions.
Ohio Republican Sen. Rob Portman was one of thousands who trudged through the metal detector at Cincinnati like any common fan.
At Philadelphia's Citizens Bank Park, fans breezed through when gates opened about 2 1/2 hours before first pitch and then made their way through the detectors without a hitch as first pitch neared.
''It's easy, but I feel like I'm at the airport,'' said 19-year-old Phillies fan J.P. Collins. ''It's a hassle, but not that bad. It's better than the Eagles. You get patted down.''
Collins dumped his phone and wallet into a screening bowl just the same as any airline traveler would before passing through a security checkpoint. Citizens Bank Park was among a handful of stadiums that ran a successful metal detector pilot program last season.
This season, it's every stadium, every gate.
''We try to follow best practices from Homeland Security,'' commissioner Rob Manfred said at Nationals Park before attending Washington's game against the visiting New York Mets. ''We always feel that the safety of our fans ought to come first. And our experience with the screenings, given that we've been doing it some places for over a year now, is that fans adjust to the new procedures and generally find them not to be burdensome.''
In the wake of the Boston Marathon bombings, baseball beefed security that was never much more than window dressing at most stadiums. Fans are not required to remove shoes or belts; fans will be required to remove cell phones, cameras and keys before passing through the metal detectors.
''We were one of the last sports to come to this,'' Milwaukee Brewers owner Mark Attanasio said before the season opener with the Colorado Rockies. ''We're so focused on baseball being a family sport, a feel good sport. In some regard, not having some of the hooliganism that you see in other sports, we were probably the last major sport to address these things. The answer is if you didn't make changes and you have an incident anywhere, you'd surely regret that.''
Any fans unable to utilize a walk-through metal detector or who opt not to use one have the option of being checked with a hand-held metal detector or receive a physical pat-down.
The Colorado Rockies were just one team that created express lanes for fans without carry-in items.
New York Yankees fans approved of the new measures with just slightly less enthusiasm than an Alex Rodriguez plate appearance.
''A little bit shorter than expected, given all the hype about it,'' fan Adam Prestin said at Yankee Stadium. ''For the most part I thought it was smooth. The lines forming around the lines are a little messy since there's a lot of people coming in at once. Overall, 5 minutes isn't too bad.''
Even when the lines stretched past the Robin Roberts and Mike Schmidt statues outside the Philadelphia gates, fans were orderly and moved ahead without incident. Hey, unlike at Wrigley Field, at least the lines were shorter for bathrooms inside the stadium.
While there was a general wave of optimism on opening day like there always is for the home team, some fans wondered where leagues draw the line at invading personal space.
''What's it actually preventing,'' Phillies fan Jeff Young asked. ''It's a solution in search of a problem. If somebody wants to do something, they'll figure out a way to do it. It just inconveniences roughly 2 million people a year for the sake of what? To me, it seems like a show.''
AP sports writer Howard Fendrich in Washington contributed to this report.