Field runners have been around baseball for as long as I can remember. Usually they’re drunk kids who make a mad dash for the field, run around with no apparent purpose, only to be quickly lassoed by local law enforcement and hauled into the stadium tunnel. In the 70’s there were streakers. These were people that actually ran naked onto the baseball field only to meet the same fate. There was also the buxom Morganna, a head full of mad platinum blonde hair and enormous breasts, who used to run onto the field directly towards a player, kiss that player, and then go back to her seat. For the player it was considered an honor. I can’t remember a player ever being assaulted by a wayward fan who had run onto the field. But that was a simpler time. We listened to disco for god’s sake.
Then came 9/11 and the world changed and we could never take our safety for granted again. Shoebombs. Anthrax (not the band). Virginia Tech. Society has shown it can get a little screwy and scary so now, when a person runs onto a baseball field, where we all used to laugh and hoot, many of us become alarmed. This is because recent history has taught us that anything can happen. Simply put, for the safety of those on the playing field, what was once a little harmless fun, is now something to be taken seriously.
So, it was at the intersection of my youthful naivete and our restless future where I saw a waifish, 17-year old kid brazenly run onto the outfield wielding a hand towel, hopping around, and looking for all the trouble he could handle. What I saw next was surreal – perhaps absurd.
Look, I know the difference between danger and somebody doing something stupid. That said, that kid posed no more danger to a player, or anyone else on that field, than a windblown hot dog wrapper. The drill started as usual. The kid came on the field. He ran around. Everyone ran towards him. But dangit this kid was wiley and hard to catch. Now the Philadelphia Police Officer had decided he had seen enough and broke out his weapon and sent currents of electricity through the interloper’s body. Are you kidding? Is this what we’ve come to? I for one hope that, while field running can not be tolerated, tasers are not routinely pulled from holsters at first sight of an intruder.
My suggestion for the future? Why not employ a common sense approach. In the interest of those playing in the game, why not measure the use of force to be employed on a case by case basis? Stay with me here. For instance, if a guy that runs on the field has the Quran in one hand and a grenade in the other, or is the mohawk guy from the Road Warrior, then bring in the cavalry. But if its a 17-year old boy flouncing around the outfield for kicks, or someone jumping out of his seat along the baseline to get a baseball, or a monarch butterfly fluttering around the pitchers mound, please keep the weapon on your hip and catch the offender the old fashioned way: by expending the necessary energy to chase him down, tackle him, and roughhouse him down to the station.
Yes, it can be said that we live in dangerous times – so lets be vigilant and protective. But not careless. If shocking people with electricity is the way those smarter than me think that it should be handled, then I guess that’s the way it’ll be. But I can’t help but think what a sad commentary that would be on where this crazy world is headed.