The news came from Major League Baseball security director John Skinner, speaking during the Ivy Sports Symposium at Harvard while taking part in the ''Preparing for the Worst: Crisis Management" panel. The Associated Press quoted Skinner as saying, "that all 30 teams are expected to screen all fans entering their ballparks next season. Some aspects of the screening will be left to individual teams, but the commissioner's office is planning to recommend walk-through metal detectors."
Those are certainly not a new development at sporting events - the last time I went to a Coyotes game at Jobing.com Arena, I remember being somewhat surprised by the detectors there, and I recall they had them at Chase for a series against the Chicago Cubs. But it's certainly far from standard practice for baseball games: minds have apparently been concentrated by the Boston marathon bombing earlier in the year, which has certainly led to increased security at sporting events. These are obvious targets, simply because they provide a large number of people in a small space. Well, unless you're at a Rays or Marlins game, anyway.
I confess to having some doubts as to whether this serves any significant practical purpose, or offers enhanced safety over the current policy of simply checking bags. If you want a genuinely "secure" environment, then anything less than an airport-style approach is simply empty showboating. You would presumably need your detectors set sensitive enough to detect a hat-pin, all shoes removed and no admission to anyone carrying more than 3.4 oz of liquid or gel. However, the result of that would likely be a need to get to the ballpark at least 90 minutes before first pitch - or, presumably 2 1/2 hours for interleague games.
The bottom line is, bad people will do bad things, and a metal detector at a stadium gate isn't likely to prevent them. Additionally, what we're dealing with here is not any realistic level of actual risk, but the perception of risk. Slightly less than three thousand people died in the 9/11 attacks: that same year in the US, more than four thousand people died in fires, and over 40,000 on the roads. If you want to prevent death and mayhem at the park, a much more practical change would be to stop selling alcohol, because I guarantee you, it has been responsible for far more avoidable harm at sporting events in the pre-metal detector era than Al Qaeda. That's so not gonna happen.
MLB's new policy is still apparently a work in progress, with a spokeman saying, "We have been reviewing our security procedures for many months and we will issue a security bulletin in 2014 that will include practices and procedures that are responsive to the new security environment. Fan screening will be one of the subjects addressed. We are continuing to consult with our clubs, our experts and the Department of Homeland Security." Let's hope that any changes which result, offer an actual increase in ballpark security, rather than simply being a cosmetic exercise in wand-waving.