FRAMINGHAM (10/08/2003) - The same year a routine ground ball to first skated through Bill Buckner's legs, thus demolishing the psyche of Red Sox fans (including us here at Debriefing), Major League Baseball hired Kevin Hallinan as its senior vice president of security and facility management. It was a position conjured by then-commissioner Peter Ueberroth, who believed alcohol and the security problems it creates were a factor in dwindling attendance.
Since then, Hallinan has seen and learned more about sports security than the Red Sox have learned about pitching winning championships. In the past year alone, Hallinan had to deal with two incidents of fans charging the White Sox's field, once attacking a coach and once an umpire, another incident in which a cherry bomb detonated in the bleachers in Oakland, and yet another in Oakland in which a spectator beaned an outfielder in the head with a cell phone.
In May, Hallinan volunteered to become chairman of the board for the TEAM (Techniques for Effective Alcohol Management) Coalition, a nonprofit consortium of sports leagues, vendors, brewers, broadcasters, facility managers and traffic safety experts founded in 1987. You can thank TEAM for rules we now take for granted, like no beer after the seventh inning.
This month, Hallinan takes on the World Series, a major event both in terms of American sports and security.
CSO: Why all of the security incidents in the past year?
Kevin Hallinan: The numbers are small but they can never be small enough. After last year's incident (when a first-base coach was attacked), we spent the entire off-season working with teams on how to prevent and deal with trespasses. Fortunately, we got an opportunity to redeem ourselves at the All- Star Game, which took place on the same field and went smoothly.
What can you do about fans charging the field?
Well, we've started to track these people and figure out who does it, where and why. We've learned, for example, that they hardly ever charge the field from where their seats are. That means we need to work on what we call ticket discipline--making sure ushers don't let fans into sections they don't belong in. And we're hoping stiff penalties will help too.
The fan who attacked the first-base coach got no jail time. Just community service, rehabilitation and probation.
I testified in that case. The judge let him walk. It was disappointing. Other cases have yielded stiffer penalties and sent a better message.
We have season tickets to the Red Sox and get patted down every game. Is this good security? Do you ever find anything?
It's helped tremendously, just not how you think. It's not that you often find things, but it has changed what people bring to the ballpark. The mere fact that there are pat downs means people bring less with them. They do really well with that in Boston.
What would security be like if the Red Sox won Game 7 of the World Series in Fenway, grabbing the team's first championship since 1918?
I can't imagine.
Neither can we. What have you learned about security through baseball?
I've learned that stadium security has a ripple effect (on the rest of the community). When the Yankees won in '96, the Bronx was a rockin', but in a good way, because fans saw on TV how positive a celebration it was inside the stadium. A lot of the time we'll be talking to a club and they'll say, "Hey, Kevin, this isn't New York or Boston." But then all it takes is one ninny trespassing on their field and they see why we're talking to them. It can be quite spooky for players and umpires.
How has your job changed since 9/11?
I used to say that while security was a 24/7 job, the facility management part of my job was a store that was open three days a week. That's increased dramatically. We're looking at the ballparks and their perimeters in whole new ways. I believe we've become a model for public-private partnerships in terms of working with local authorities, the teams themselves and the fans to improve security. We're not perfect, but we're getting things done.
And we're not just thinking about isolated terrorist incidents. We're thinking about earthquakes and blackouts.
Do you profess allegiance to any particular baseball team?
Yes, all 30 of them. You're talking to a guy who loves his job.