Give that fan a fine for interference

April 19, 1994|By Mark Hyman | Mark Hyman,Sun Staff Writer

Like a lot of Orioles fans, Joe DiBlasi is frustrated by Camden Yards visitors who sit above the outfield walls, waiting to intercept fly balls headed for Brady Anderson's glove.

Now, DiBlasi, city councilman from the 6th District, has an idea he says may cause fans to pause before they grab.

Last night, DiBlasi introduced a bill that would slap potentially heavy sanctions on those who interfere with balls in play at the stadium -- fines ranging to $500 and/or community service requirements of at least 100 hours.

"I don't want someone to be arrested, but we already might have lost a ballgame because of fan interference," DiBlasi said. "If you take it to nth degree, this could cost us a pennant or the World Series, which would mean a lot of lost revenue to Baltimore City."

DiBlasi's bill isn't unique -- New York and Los Angeles also have laws aimed at ill-mannered fans, the councilman said -- but it apparently would impose some of the toughest penalties in the country.

"I don't know of a city or state trying to adopt a law like that," said Bobby Brown, American League president.

Brown wouldn't comment on the bill itself but said attempts to rein in fans have to be weighed carefully. "You always have to measure the good that can occur from passing a law as opposed to the problems enforcing it," the league president said.

Fan interference is a problem as old as baseball, but lately it has become a particularly hot topic at Camden Yards. During the Orioles' first homestand of the season, fans twice got in the way of batted balls, both times to the home team's detriment.

On April 6, Cal Ripken had a long drive nullified when a fan's outstretched cap grazed Kansas City Royals left fielder Vince Coleman. Ripken was ruled out.

Four days later, Anderson narrowly missed catching a ball against the wall in left when a fan stuck a cap beyond the wall.

The Orioles have various ways of warding off fan interference. Before every game, the team issues a warning over the public-address system, listing the consequences for fans should they get in the way. Touching a ball that's in play usually is enough to get the offender ejected from the ballpark. The penalty for fans who run onto the field is harsher -- an arrest on a charge of trespass, said Roy Sommerhof, Orioles director of stadium operations.

Orioles owner Peter Angelos said he knew of DiBlasi's bill but didn't want to comment yet.

"We're reviewing it, and we'll have an opinion when that's completed," Angelos said.

But the owner left no doubt that he shares DiBlasi's concern about fan behavior. "Obviously, no one wants to penalize young people who get caught up in the excitement of what is happening and interfere with the players. On the other hand, experience tells us something needs to be done to curtail that activity," Angelos said.

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