By Clinton Riddle
“I went with it. It’s not like they forced me.” – Mike Rodriguez, Dodgers fan, on incident at Chase Field
You’ve heard about it, by now: at a recent Diamondbacks-Dodgers game at the D-Backs’ Chase Field, a fan who was sitting behind home plate was ‘asked’ to remove or cover his Dodgers jersey. You’ve been told (numerous times) that the D-Backs security personnel were told to carry out this insidious order.
As it turns out, you were told wrong. Mostly. Sorta.
The fan in question is Mike Rodriguez, who was attending the game with a friend, and on this particular day he decided to mosey on down to the Batter’s Box Suite section, home of the affordably-priced $3,700 seats. The home team was behind 7-0 in the top of the ninth, so Mike and companion figured they’d at least see how the other half lives and took up residence behind home plate. And, since everyone on the planet now seems to own their own recording studio, those aforementioned security personnel were captured on video seemingly instructing Rodriguez to either remove or cover up his Dodgers jersey.
The blowback online has been somewhat tepid.
I’m lying, of course. People LOST THEIR FREAKING MINDS. But you already know about that part. What you don’t know is that it was not quite what we had been led to believe.
The story was relayed to AZCentral.com by Lisa McCarthy and her husband, Ron, who were sitting nearby when Rodriguez came to their section:
“So we were sitting there enjoying the game, and a bunch of the other seat-holders left,” McCarthy said. “We were in the ninth inning. The D-Backs were losing, so they walked in out of nowhere and were pretty thrilled with the seats.”
Rodriguez said that he had come to know security and ushers there at the field over the years, and the usher who spoke to him about the jersey was one of those who remembered Rodriguez. Apparently, the usher told him he could stay on one condition: that Dodger blue had to disappear.
It was sort of a tongue-in-cheek request, but quite a definite one. Those seats, after all, spend more time on TV than any others, and the D-Backs certainly couldn’t have a lot of empty seats surrounding two Dodgers fans. As Rodriguez puts it:
“They could have kicked me out, but they know me,” Rodriguez said. “So they didn’t make a big deal out of it.”
The McCarthys were kind enough to help Rodriguez and his friend deal with that request. Everyone had a nice little chuckle and that was the end of it.
Not really. And this isn’t the first time that Arizona has asked a fan to shed their colors.
Back in 2013, the Diamondbacks made the news for a similar incident involving the same section of seats and a fan with no love for the Snakes. Coincidentally (depending on who you ask), it was another Dodgers fan. Their response to the ensuing backlash was that they ask fans to “adhere to the policy” of not wearing the colors of opposing teams while seated in that particular section. Why the mess in 2013 didn’t make bigger waves is beyond me. Anyhew…
NBC’s Craig Calcaterra spoke with a team representative on Monday about this latest incident:
“At the time of purchase, we ask that those fans sitting in the home plate box, which is visible on TV, wear either neutral colors or D-Backs attire which the team will provide.”
End of story? Hardly, because two days later another Diamondbacks spokesperson offered the following mea culpa-in-disguise:
“Fans who are looking to buy those seats are informed that we prefer (emphasis added) that they wear D-Backs or neutral attire. We offer them alternative locations or even provide them with team gear. However, should they purchase them and choose to wear opposing team gear, they are permitted to do so.”
Oh. They “prefer” it. That’s cute.
Said spokesperson then went on to say that Rodriguez wasn’t obligated to change or cover his jersey; it was basically all a joke.
Let me be clear on this, since the D-Backs can’t (or won’t): that’s a straight-up song and dance. They know how bad it looked, that a few dozen fans caught the whole thing on video, and that there was considerable backlash over it in the press. Now they’re trying to make amends and/or distance themselves from a decision made by their own personnel on orders from their managerial staff.
Come on, now. It’s one thing to try to divert attention from a sorry performance on the field, but surely you can find more constructive ways of doing it. This is, at least, the second time this has happened in the past two years. What you had on your hands was someone who snuck into the section late in the game, who didn’t get to hear the ‘wear our stuff’ speech beforehand but was held to the same expectations, and now you look like clowns because of it. And let’s face it: fans change seats all the time, even if the seat they’re occupying isn’t on TV so much that it has its own agent.
Just own it. Apologize and move on. Offer Rodriguez some free tickets. Heck, just swallow some pride and buy him another Dodgers jersey or something like that. I’m sure that would make a great impression.
And then, ask him to wear it after you give him a free ticket behind home plate for an upcoming game. That’s one terrific way to salvage some PR.
Rodriguez isn’t even offended. He knows the score (7-4, Dodgers). He snuck into the section and got to stay there; what does he care whose jersey he has to wear while he’s there? This is more about the thousands of fans out there who think you’re a bunch of children for asking him to change in the first place, even if it was ‘all in jest’.
Take the high road, Arizona.