Last night’s game at Citizen Bank Ballpark turned into an episode of Law & Order when a 17-year old Phillies fan was tasered by a police officer after running on the field. Philadelphia has always been on the cutting edge of law enforcement at sporting events, so what better place to consider the appropriate use of force against fans who decide to trespass?
As much as we make light of fans who decide to run a few laps on the field, the act is still criminal (in this case, several crimes, including resisting arrest, disorderly conduct and defiant trespass). Unfortunately, there are several recent examples of trespassing fans with more than benign intentions. The 1994 stabbing of Monica Seles stands out the most, but baseball has had a few scary incident of its own over the past 10 years. The most notorious occurred on September 18, 2002, when Royals coach Tom Gamboa was assaulted by two fans at U.S. Cellular Field in Chicago. Then, the next season, ironically during another Royals game in Chicago, umpire Laz Diaz was attacked by a fan. In both incidents, the fans were subdued by Royals players before something truly tragic occurred, but perhaps the next intended victim wont be so lucky.
Who is to say that the young man who ran on the field last night didn’t have bad intentions? Is it fair to ask police officers and security personnel to assume innocent motives from a trespasser fleeing apprehension? Just because the incident took place on a baseball field doesn’t mean law enforcement must amend what otherwise would be accepted conduct. Running on the field at a baseball game is a crime and should be treated as such. If tasering is part of a police department’s accepted code, it should also apply at the ballpark. Heck, at Yankee Stadium, police officers and security personnel beat the living daylights out of trespassers, so tasering is almost like getting off easy.
Perhaps, if we stop looking at running on the field as a prank and start punishing it like a crime, the number of incidents will decline. More importantly, we won’t be caught off guard when someone attempts an act more heinous. A slight overreaction is always better than a tragic underestimation.