Ballpark security upped as Bonds chases Babe

SAN FRANCISCO -- Security has been beefed up inside and outside AT&T Park as Barry Bonds tries to tie and pass Babe Ruth for second place on the career home run list.

Extra police officers are stationed around the ballpark to control potentially unruly fans and the concourse above the right-field arcade, where Bonds often sends his homers, has been barricaded.

"This is not the first time he has had a milestone home run," Blake Rhodes, a Giants spokesman, said of the team's resident slugger. "So we have taken precautions to make sure everyone's safety is involved."

The barricades, which closed a section of the park to everyone but ticket-holders for that section, were erected to keep people from scrambling into the stands for the chance to pluck the fruit of Bonds' labors.

After Bonds hit his 700th home run at home in September 2004, fans scrambling for the historic ball engaged in an 80-second melee, and two men wound up in court fighting over its ownership. The ball eventually sold for $804,129 in an online auction.

The dispute mirrored a scuffle from October 2001, when Bonds set the single-season record with 73 home runs. The souvenir sparked litigation that ended when a judge ordered two men who claimed to have caught it to split the $450,000 the ball fetched.

But the cloud that has surrounded Bonds as a grand jury investigates whether he lied about using steroids has heightened the need for extra security, as evidenced by the presence of a San Francisco police officer outside the Giants clubhouse.

The officer was stationed there after cameramen followed Bonds toward his car during a homestand last month.

During spring training in Arizona, Bonds also had a Major League Baseball security guard with him at all times.

Rhodes would not provide details of the enhanced security measures the Giants put in place but stressed that the team wanted to protect spectators, stadium employees and players.

Maria Oropeza, a San Francisco police spokeswoman, refused to reveal how many extra officers the department had assigned to ballpark duty but said patrols were added to McCovey Cove, the slice of bay where boaters gather in hopes of grabbing a water-bound homer. Bonds has hit 31 home runs into the bay.

Attendance is expected to rise as Bonds chases Ruth's mark of 714 during a home stretch that includes three weekend games against the rival Los Angeles Dodgers. Bonds matched and then broke Mark McGwire's single-season record in 2001 when the Giants faced the Dodgers here.