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Los Angeles police out in force for Dodgers opening day a year after near-fatal beating
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.
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.
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.