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Major League Baseball’s Team Approach to Security

Oct 01, 20053 mins
Physical Security

“We’re not a rock show. We’re not a one-night stand,” says Kevin Hallinan, senior vice president of security and facility management for Major League Baseball (MLB). To the contrary. With 30 ballparks across the country, each of which hosts at least 81 games a year, MLB and its teams are married to their communities. Come World Series time, which starts Oct. 22, that’s a big plus.

Unlike the Super Bowl, the location of which is chosen far in advance, the whereabouts of baseball’s Fall Classic depends on the sport’s long weeding out process. Not a problem, says Hallinan, who joined MLB in 1986 (see “Mr. (April thru) October,” at Careful attention is paid to each ballpark (even standings stragglers). Throughout the year, Hallinan and his staff collaborate with the vice presidents of stadium operations and security at the ballparks to share best practices and review and strengthen policies.

In each MLB city, the baseball commissioner’s office also employs up to five resident security agents who are active police officers. At least one is present at most games to scout the premises for security inadequacieseverything from overcrowded bleachers to on-field incidents. But effective security isn’t just top-down, Hallinan says; it takes collaboration.

Relationships, communication and education form Hallinan’s security philosophy. The former NYPD co-commander of the FBI/NYPD Joint Terrorism Task Force is on a first-name basis with the chief of police, the FBI chief and other security players in each city. The MLB sets minimum security standards for the ballparkswhich include guidelines on alcohol sales, bag inspection and barricades. MLB also created a fan code of conduct; as a result, most parks stop alcohol sales by the seventh inning.

Although the baseball commissioner’s office has ultimate responsibility for security, Hallinan emphasizes he and his staff do not “police” the ballparks. He is quick to applaud each ballpark’s security efforts and points to their familiarity with their own parks, local issues and time-sensitive situations. For example, two years ago, prompted by fear of fan misbehavior in response to an onfield brawl between Yankee and Red Sox players, Fenway Park officials shut down alcohol sales after the fourth inning during a game between the two archrival teams.

All this is not to say that MLB’s security is perfect. Hallinan himself recalls recent incidents in Chicago, one of which involved a fan jumping a fence to assault umpire Laz Diaz. He says the organization has learned lessons and tightened security as a result. Given the potential risks during a gamecrowd misbehavior, terrorism, violence against players or other fansand the number of people who visit ballparks, Hallinan says he works to keep security in the background, so that most gamegoers are only thinking about hot dogs, beer and the score. “A baseball game is not a security event; it’s entertainment,” Hallinan says.