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Baseball's New Issue: Child Endangerment

November 12, 2002|Ross Newhan | Times Staff Writer

TUCSON — So, what happens when major league general managers pause from the trade and free-agent talks that always tend to dominate their annual meeting?

What does the official business agenda look like?

Well, among the complex and critical industry issues to be reviewed today is the subject of ... batboys -- and can it get any more complex and critical?

After all, it was almost a matter of life and death in Game 5 of the World Series when J.T. Snow of the San Francisco Giants lifted Manager Dusty Baker's 3-year-old son, Darren, out of harm's way as teammate David Bell bore down on the plate and the unaware youngster blithely retrieved Kenny Lofton's bat.

Snow's save was captured nationally in words and pictures, put focus on the day-care center that operated out of the Giant dugout and prompted baseball officials to recognize the risk involved without a minimum age requirement for batboys.

"This may sound naive, but I was shocked to find out Darren was only 3 1/2 years old," Sandy Alderson said Monday. "I just thought he was short for his age."

As baseball's executive vice president of operations, Alderson said he will seek feedback from the general managers today, part of a process in which baseball is investigating state and federal laws, evaluating the insurance aspect and reviewing the past practices of each team.

"We don't want to do something arbitrarily, but we clearly need a rule that addresses the problem," he said, adding that Commissioner Bud Selig will review the findings and issue an age directive before spring training begins.

Baseball has a rule that limits clubs to two batboys in the dugout, but it is not uniformly enforced, and the issue of age is left to the discretion of each club.

"Kids and baseball have a deep relationship," Alderson said. "On the other hand, we have to balance that with the need for safety, compliance with state and federal laws and a standard of reasonableness. There needs to be limits. There needs to be a minimum age."

Alderson conceded that as general manager of the Oakland A's in the 1980s and '90s, players' sons were allowed on the field at times.

"But were they three years of age?" he said. "No. Were they required to leave the field at a particular time? Yes. Were they allowed in the dugout during the game? No. There are certainly ways the father-son relationship can be accommodated, which at the same time preserves a safe environment."

Whether Dusty and Darren Baker represent a potential tandem hire for the Chicago Cubs in their contract negotiations is uncertain. Alderson insisted that the age issue would have been addressed even if it hadn't been for the Game 5 incident, but "when you have literally a Baker's dozen batboys in the dugout, it stands to reason that somebody is going to notice."

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