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MLB Trying to Sort Out Fenway Incident

By Dave Sheinin
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, April 16, 2005; Page D07

BALTIMORE, April 15 -- While Major League Baseball launched an investigation into an incident Thursday night at Boston's Fenway Park between New York Yankees right fielder Gary Sheffield and a Red Sox fan in the right field stands, Sheffield said Friday that baseball is partly to blame for allowing fans to be so close to the action.

"They wanted to make it fan-friendly. They want people close to the field and [to] be involved in the game," Sheffield said prior to the Yankees' game at Oriole Park at Camden Yards against the Baltimore Orioles. "But there's a price to pay for that -- when you get that close to people and things happen."


Yankees' Gary Sheffield, tussling with a fan in Boston Thursday, says he was hit in the mouth. (Yes Network Via AP)

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Kevin Hallinan, baseball's director of security, met before Friday night's game with Sheffield and Yankees Manager Joe Torre but declined to reveal the substance of the meeting. Hallinan, who had been in Washington on Thursday night to oversee security at the Washington Nationals' home opener, has dispatched an investigator to Boston to interview witnesses.

"I've been looking at video all day," Hallinan said. "I'm still trying to piece this together." Hallinan added he expected to conclude his investigation by early next week at the latest.

Torre said he would be surprised if Sheffield received a suspension for his part in the incident. The fan appeared to swipe at Sheffield as Sheffield attempted to play a ball off the three-foot-high fence in right field. A stunned Sheffield then made a move to shove the fan before throwing the ball to the infield. Sheffield then approached the fan in a menacing manner before backing off, as a security guard quickly got between the men.

Sheffield claims he was struck in the mouth by the fan, and Torre again praised Sheffield's "restraint," while saying the fan's actions to disrupt Sheffield were clearly intentional.

The fan "wasn't going for the ball," Torre said, "because if you're going to go for a ball you're going to bend over and reach down with both hands. You're not going to swing your hands like that. I didn't think there was any doubt in my mind it was on purpose. He knew what he wanted to do. . . .

"I don't know what type of penalty [is warranted]. That's for someone else to decide," Torre said. "But I think [fans] certainly need to be made aware that their place is in the stands."

Hallinan said he was unaware of any charges being filed against the fan over the incident, although Red Sox President Larry Lucchino met in Boston with the team's chief legal officer and security director for more than an hour.

"It was clear that Lucchino wasn't treating this lightly," Red Sox spokesman Charles Steinberg said. "He was serious and concerned. . . . We appreciate the restraint that Gary Sheffield showed."

The incident was the latest in a list of recent confrontations between athletes and fans that have caused leagues to re-evaluate that essential relationship. Sheffield acknowledged Thursday night that one of his first thoughts during the incident was of Ron Artest of the NBA's Indiana Pacers, who was suspended for the season in November after going into the stands in Detroit to confront a fan whom Artest believed had thrown a cup full of soda at him.

"Baseball's not the same as when I played the game. When I played the game it was just a sport," Torre said. "Now it's like rock stars, and the combination of that and all these reality shows on television -- where everybody in the stands thinks they should be on the field, and everybody's on television now -- it's certainly frightening. We've glorified violence more than we certainly need to, and it's evident in a lot of things that are going on."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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