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Security Is Stepped Up for Spring Training

February 27, 2003|Jason Reid | Times Staff Writer

VERO BEACH, Fla. — The Dodgers and Detroit Tigers begin the exhibition season today amid increased security at Dodgertown.

The club bolstered its efforts this year at the spring training complex, replacing an outside agency with an in-house staff, hoping to address heightened security concerns. Changes from last spring are evident, and today's Grapefruit League opener at Holman Stadium marks another beginning.

"We have the mechanics [in place], so what we're going to see now is what else we might have to do," said John Pitta, recently hired as chief of security. "We know where we should be, we think we're where we should be, and if we have to refine and make some changes, we'll do that."

Pitta, who joined the club in January, spent 33 years in federal law enforcement, rising to a high-ranking position in the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. Craig Callan, vice president of Dodgertown and minor league facilities, decided to upgrade security because of terrorism concerns and the opening of a $5.5-million, state-of-the-art complex that houses the club.

Under Pitta's direction, the Dodgers hired a 55-person staff to patrol the sprawling facility. Security personnel are more visible -- in part because of bright yellow uniform shirts -- at entrances and throughout areas where fans are permitted.

The Vero Beach Police Department has provided a helping hand, Callan said, increasing the number of officers at games from three to eight and patrolling Dodgertown more frequently. Following major league guidelines, the Dodgers now inspect bags at Holman Stadium and restrict fan parking, in some areas instituting even more safeguards than the commissioner's office mandates.

"We don't have the resources of, say, a Staples Center, where you go through metal detectors or whatever," Callan said. "You just can't do that for 14 spring training games. What we have done is address a lot of the concerns we had, and also what our local law enforcement agents have brought up."

Pitta described the current situation as being "light years" ahead of what he inherited, but said there's still work to be done.

"Everything is by the pace that you want," he said. "In the beginning, it took some learning, there was a learning curve, but nobody knows what you want until you tell them and show them.

"It's just like your children. You can tell your children don't go into the cookie jar, but it's going to take a couple of days before they realize that that's where they shouldn't be."


Right-hander Kevin Brown said he was ready to pitch in a game after another strong, 60-pitch bullpen session.

Manager Jim Tracy said Brown, coming off back surgery, would throw in the bullpen again Friday. Tracy declined comment on Brown's exhibition schedule, but recently said Brown has been impressive under the circumstances.

"I'm happy with where things are," Brown said, "and I think they're happy with where things are."


Rookie Joe Thurston, expected to be the everyday second baseman, had another two for three with a solo home run and run-scoring double in an intrasquad game. The left-handed batter was six for seven in the two intrasquad games.... Left fielder Brian Jordan (left knee soreness) is scheduled to play in today's opener. All-Star right fielder Shawn Green (left shoulder tendinitis) is the only regular expected to sit out.... Derrick Hall, senior vice president, has been selected Arizona State's outstanding young alumnus. He will receive the award March 12 at Tempe, Ariz.

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