LOS ANGELES (AP) — Police were out in force Tuesday for opening day at Dodger Stadium, swarming on bikes, going undercover and looking for boozing tailgaters a year after a Giants fan was beaten into a coma in the parking lot.
Security was a "paramount priority," the team said in a statement as fans swarmed to the hilltop stadium for the gala opening, which marked the 50th anniversary of the first game played there and the start of a season that will see a change in ownership.
There was no immediate word on whether police made any pre-game arrests.
The Dodgers faced the Pittsburgh Pirates in a game scheduled to begin at 1:10 p.m. but fans jammed nearby roads and parks hours earlier, waiting for parking lot gates to open for the sellout game.
Police enforced a zero-tolerance policy toward alcohol in the lots.
Manuel Veliz, 30, of Wilmington, said he and two friends had been drinking beer in Starbucks cups in their car in the parking lot when a police officer made them pour it out.
"We were sitting in our own car, keys off," he said. "We're just trying to save a couple bucks, $15 beers in here. ... Not everybody's rich these days."
He said he felt that was overkill and police were acting like overeager "rookies."
"The cops, they just come out of nowhere and he said, 'There's cameras everywhere — we seen you drinking.' You know, we're just trying to have a beer," he said. "They're pushing the limit now because of what happened and they're trying to make themselves not look so bad."
He thought that the beating incident was not indicative of violence at Dodger Stadium and said he never felt threatened.
"People get beat up in parking lots all over sports," he said. "But one guy here gets beat up, and they blow it up and make everybody scared to come to the park."
Zachary Beck, 23, York, Pa., arranged to visit a friend in California so he could catch the Pirates game. He was wearing his team's hat and jersey.
He said he had no qualms about coming out to the game.
"As long as you yourself are under control, you should be fine," he said. "I had a couple of people say, 'Oh, boo, Pirates,' but they had smiles on their faces."
On Monday night, police and city public safety officers patrolled nearby parks to prevent fans from camping out and drinking.
On Tuesday, scores of uniformed Los Angeles Police Department officers patrolled the stands, the huge parking lots and the entrance.
Undercover officers wearing Pirates jerseys also were on hand.
"At every game this season, we're going to have undercover officers in the opposing team jerseys," Sgt. Mitzi Fierro said. "If somebody is going to harass a fan from an opposing team, it increases the possibility of them coming in contact with a police officer. It kind of requires people to be on their best behavior."
Last year's opening was marred by an attack at the end of the game on Giants fan Bryan Stow. He was wearing a San Francisco jersey when he was punched in the head, kicked and slammed to the ground in the parking lot. Stow, a paramedic from Santa Cruz, suffered severe brain damage and continues to undergo rehabilitation.
Two men have pleaded not guilty to charges of mayhem, assault and battery.
After the attack, critics charged that Dodgers owner Frank McCourt had contributed to a climate of rowdiness by cutting back on security. In addition to private security, the Dodgers pay for uniformed LAPD officers to patrol the games.
"Prior to Mr. McCourt owning the Dodgers, we always had a strong police presence," Fierro said. "When Mr. McCourt took over the team, he really started cutting back on security. He just didn't want to pay the costs."
"There was less security, there were rowdier fans, the atmosphere seemed to change," she said.
"Dodger Stadium's always been a great LA tradition. Families have always been there. I can remember sitting on my grandfather's lap as a kid," Fierro said. "I'm a big fan. I saw Sandy Koufax throw a no-hitter."
"Now, we really want to work in concert with Dodger Stadium," she said. "We want to make sure we preserve the family tradition that the Dodgers represent ... we want it back."
The team, which expects to exit bankruptcy this month, is being bought for $2 billion by Guggenheim Baseball Management, a group that includes former Los Angeles Lakers star Earvin "Magic" Johnson and longtime baseball executive Stan Kasten.
Robert Delgado, 40, from Fontana, his wife and his 10-year-old daughter, Juliana, were attending their first Dodger opening game.
He boycotted the Dodgers last year because of McCourt.
"I think he made it all about him and his family and money rather than the institution that the Dodgers are to this city," he said. "He kind of took that from us. What it means to Dodgers fans in their hearts. He kind of stole that and made it dirty."
Delgado doesn't like the fact that McCourt will continue to earn money from Dodger fans because he still owns the stadium parking lots.
But at least "he doesn't control the team," he said.
- Dodger Stadium