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Baltimore Orioles Could Benefit From Increased Stadium Security

In the Aftermath of the Shooting at the Mall in Columbia, the Orioles Would Benefit From Increased Stadium Security

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COMMENTARY | "I have brought my gun in here a couple times," he confessed to me while standing outside Gate H, the main entrance to Oriole Park at Camden Yards.

"I just forget I have it on me."

April 16, 2013: "Good Enough for Me"

Only a day removed from the bombing at the Boston Marathon that saw three people lose their lives and 264 others suffer injuries, the Baltimore Orioles were set to play the Tampa Bay Rays at Oriole Park at Camden Yards.

It was the first professional sports game in the city since the tragedy in Boston; the first professional sports game in the city since sports had been sucked mercilessly into the unfortunate era of mass shootings and bombings that had -- and continues to -- plague the country.

Outside of Camden Yards, roughly 30 minutes before Gate H was scheduled to open, things were operating as they do every other gameday: the group of Orioles employees charged with the duty of checking bags moseyed out to their positions. Today, however, there was a television camera trying to get audio and video of the bag-check process to air on that evening's news.

When the first bag was being checked -- my bag -- the cameraman got closer. After poking the bag once or twice with a 12-inch long wooden stick, sticking her hand inside and lazily pushing my jacket away from the top, the Orioles employee was satisfied with the job she had done in checking the first bag due to enter the gates of Camden Yards since the bombing at the Boston Marathon.

"Good enough for me," she commented, the camera just over her right shoulder.

January 25, 2014: Tragedy at the Mall in Columbia

Within the long list of mass shootings occurring in recent years, Maryland had previously remained unscathed until early 2014.

On Saturday, a 19-year-old entered the Mall in Columbia in Columbia, Md., armed with a 12-gauge shotgun and two explosive devices that Howard County Police described as "crudely" made. The gunman shot and killed two in a store and fired at least one shot into the food court below before taking his own life. The explosive devices were defused by police.

The motive is still unknown to investigators and the incident is a shock to many around the state. Most homicides occur within Baltimore City and rarely in Howard County, which, according to the Baltimore Sun, only had seven in 2012.

In a poll published on the website for Baltimore's CBS affiliate, 54.6% of those polled said the incident at the Mall in Columbia made them at least "somewhat" afraid to shop in public places.

The events at the Mall in Columbia provide an unfortunate reminder for Marylanders that these kind of tragedies can happen anywhere, even in crowded places where you think you are safe.

"I Just Forget I Have it on Me."

Over the course of the baseball season, Camden Yards receives visits from many fans who are not from Maryland, traveling from states with more relaxed gun laws.

One out-of-state fan who has attended dozens of games over the last two seasons -- and shall remain nameless -- told me that on at least two occasions he has brought his gun into the stadium.

The fan lives in a nearby state where he has a permit to carry a concealed weapon. His gun always comes with him on his trips to Baltimore, one of the most murderous cities in the country.

"I just forget I have it on me," the gun-owning fan once told me.

Currently, Camden Yards only checks bags prior to entrance to the stadium, mostly looking for the obvious restricted items: weapons, alcohol, glass bottles and other items of the sort in the main pockets. Often, the bags are lazily checked, with only a portion looked over; if there were a handgun in the front pocket of a backpack, more times than not, it would not be seen by the bag-checkers.

Anything on your person will make it into the ballpark. Every time.

MLB Plans Metal Detectors at All Stadiums by 2015

This offseason, Major League Baseball announced a plan to require all of its stadiums to have metal detectors installed at all entrances by the 2015 season.

The plan has made many stadium-goers groan. Going to a baseball game may soon become like going through airport security.

However, there are obvious safety benefits to the detectors.

"In theory, I think it is a great idea," said Alex Kopp, a baseball fan that attends nearly every Orioles home game, about the installation of metal detectors.

"Realistically, though, I think this is going to be a great hassle and nuisance for people that attend the majority of games. Entering the stadium may take longer, which hinders the fan experience," Kopp said.

"I think the metal detectors will grow into an even bigger problem for games that are near capacity [or] sold out," he said, noting the amount of anxious fans that are often outside the gates prior to a big game.

Kopp says without metal detectors he does feel safe at Camden Yards, but not because of any security measures that are in place, but because of the atmosphere provided by the beautiful park and the game of baseball.

"The events at the Columbia mall bring a close-to-home perspective on a potential incident at [Oriole Park at Camden Yards] and certainly makes me question my safety at games. I have no doubt it would be very easy to sneak in a concealed weapon to [Oriole Park at Camden Yards], but that's not what I like to think about while I'm watching baseball," said Kopp, adding that the increase of incidents across the country is not enough to make him stop going to games.

How Major League Baseball handles its increased security measures will be something to be explored in a few years. Likewise, it will probably take a few more years after that for all 30 stadiums to perfect the process, striking the perfect balance between fan safety and fan convenience.

In the end, a little fan inconvenience is a small price to pay to prevent a tragedy at a crowded ballpark.

Tim Anderson is a writer for Eutaw Street Report and sometimes a contributor to the Hall of Very Good. You may know him from catching home runs in the bleachers at Camden Yards, which included one in three consecutive games in 2011. You can follow him on Twitter @TimmyWade94.
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