CHICAGO (AP) — Oakland Athletics manager Mark Kotsay remembered sitting alone in the stands as a 5-year-old growing up near Los Angeles and watching his dad Steve pitch in a softball game.
A car pulled up behind left field and someone in the vehicle started shooting. As the bullets sprayed the field, Steve Kotsay sprung into action. A police officer, he tackled his son to protect him.
“It’s just the memory I have of being at a baseball — softball — game and my dad,” Mark Kotsay said. “Things like that happened in my neighborhood.”
Mark Kotsay looked back on that memory on Saturday, one day after there was a shooting at Guaranteed Rate Field during Oakland’s 12-4 victory over the Chicago White Sox — raising questions about security at the ballpark and what exactly happened.
The White Sox said they were not aware at first that a woman injured during the game was shot, and that the Chicago Police Department would have stopped play if officers thought it was unsafe to continue.
Team spokesman Scott Reifert said police determined there was “no active threat and that the ballgame could continue.” The team also was in contact with Major League Baseball.
“If the police want to stop the game, they’re going to stop the game,” Reifert said.
Chicago police say a 42-year-old woman sustained a gunshot wound to the leg during the game against the Oakland Athletics, and a 26-year-old woman had a graze wound to her abdomen. The 42-year-old woman was in fair condition at University of Chicago Medical Center. The 26-year-old woman refused medical attention, according to the police statement.
Chicago police had no update on Saturday.
“It’s not something you expect to see or hear about at a game, but thankfully everybody’s OK,” White Sox outfielder Andrew Benintendi said.
Players and managers from both teams said they were not aware of the shooting until afterward. White Sox manager Pedro Grifol said he was “absolutely” fine with the game continuing.
“If they felt we were in danger, then probably they would have let us know prior to,” he said.
The White Sox were still unsure if a gun was fired from inside or outside the ballpark. The team also defended the security procedures in place and would not say if extra measures were being implemented as a result of the incident.
“We want our fans to be able to come into the ballgame and feel safe and have a good time, and millions of people come into this ballpark every year,” Reifert said Saturday. “We try to make sure they have as nice an evening as possible.”
The injuries were sustained midway up Section 161 in left-center field around the fourth inning, according to Reifert.
Chicagoans Michael Reyes and Martha Rincon were in the last few rows there on Saturday, part of a group of eight friends.
Rincon said they were “a little leery” about going to the game. But then again, they wanted to honor a late friend who was a loyal White Sox fan. His birthday would have been on Sunday.
“It’s kind of like living in south Chicago,” said Rincon, a Cubs fan from the South Side. “You know it’s happening out there. But you still go home.”
She joked: “We actually thought the giveaway was gonna be bulletproof vests with the Sox logo.”
Fans got Dylan Cease bobbleheads, instead.
Reyes said he wasn’t shocked by the shooting, but he wouldn’t have expected it, either.
“I am not one of these ‘It can’t happen here’ because it can happen anywhere,” he said. “Unfortunately, with the rise of shootings and people having access to guns, I shouldn’t be surprised that it happened here.”
Reyes and Rincon noticed more police and security than usual around the ballpark. But they didn’t see extra measures when they passed through the entrance.
Major League Baseball has had mandatory metal detection in place since opening day in 2015. Big league clubs had between the 2013 season and 2015 opening day to meet the metal detection screening requirements.
But if a bullet fired from outside lands inside the ballpark?
“Obviously that becomes bigger than a Chicago White Sox issue,” Reifert said. “That becomes a Chicago Police Department issue and a public safety issue, and we all try to coordinate and work together. Which is one of the things we do and we think we do well.”
Reifert said no one reported hearing a gun go off and it took a while before medical personnel and investigators realized there was a shooting. He said the bullet apparently wound up settling in a shirt worn by a third person, who was not injured.
The announced crowd Friday was 21,906. A postgame concert featuring Vanilla Ice, Rob Base and Tone Loc was canceled because of “technical issues,” the team announced at the time. The White Sox said Saturday the concert was canceled “to allow CPD to clear the areas of spectators and inspect the bleachers with the ballpark lights on” and not because of security concerns.
“For something like that to happen, it does kind of raise the awareness of safety and stuff like that for us players and for the fans too,” Oakland outfielder Lawrence Butler said. “You don’t want anybody to come to a baseball game and leave injured or anything like that. So that is pretty scary.”
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