CHICAGO (AP) -- The concern is always somewhere in the back of athletes' minds, a whisper of a worry that a drunk or angry fan might cross the line.
Most days, however, the playing field serves as a sanctuary, and the worries are set aside.
But not Thursday night. On an otherwise tranquil evening, Royals coach Tom Gamboa was attacked by a father and son who came out of the seats. A pocket knife was found on the ground afterward.
Suddenly, questions about safety at ballparks nationwide abound.
"We think we're safe at the ballpark," Royals outfielder Carlos Beltran said. "That tells us no matter where we are, we're not safe."
The father, William Ligue Jr., was due in court Saturday on a felony charge of aggravated battery. He's been in custody since the incident.
Ligue's 15-year-old son was charged with two juvenile counts of aggravated battery, one for attacking Gamboa and the other for hitting a White Sox security guard, an off-duty police officer.
The teenager was initially released to his mother, but was later taken to a juvenile detention center after authorities reviewed the case. He is due in court Monday.
Ligue and his son contend Gamboa provoked them, making an obscene gesture. But the 54-year-old first-base coach insists he had no exchanges with the two before they slammed him to the ground and started punching and kicking him.
"The only thing that's really got me upset even more than the incident itself is the charge that there was something going on between us," Gamboa said. "I have never in my professional career ever responded" to fans.
"At no time, no matter how bad it got, have I ever made a hand gesture or verbally done anything to the fans."
According to a law enforcement source who spoke on condition of anonymity, Ligue was at the game with two sons and several of their young cousins.
Sitting in the first row along the right-field line, the group shouted insults at Gamboa all night. The source said Ligue and his family contended there were some back and forth comments until Gamboa made an obscene gesture.
Around the seventh inning, Ligue called a female relative on a cell phone to ask if she was watching the game. When she could not find the channel, he said, "Well then, just watch the news," the source said.
As he and his son were led to police cars Thursday night, Ligue said, "He got what he deserved."
Major league baseball said it would look into whether it needs to make changes in security at ballparks.
"We're going to review all of our procedures in and around the dugouts and bullpens," said Kevin Hallinan, executive director of security for the commissioner's office. "We need to go back to the drawing board because of what appears to be happening in the late stages of games, with fans moving to those areas."
This isn't the first time baseball -- and sports in general -- has had to confront the safety issue.
Who hasn't seen fans racing around a field until they're tackled by a security guard? It seems like a harmless stunt, and most players don't even move when it happens.
Occasionally, though, it turns ugly, like when a 23-year-old fan attacked Houston right fielder Bill Spiers on Sept. 24, 1999, in Milwaukee. Spiers ended up with a welt under his left eye, a bloody nose and whiplash.
On Sept. 28, 1995, Cubs reliever Randy Myers was charged by a 27-year-old bond trader who ran out of the stands at Wrigley Field. Myers saw the man coming, dropped his glove and knocked him down with his forearm.
Or in the most horrific incident, a spectator stabbed Monica Seles in the back during an April 1993 match in Hamburg, Germany.
"It is a fear of players," Royals outfielder Chuck Knoblauch said. "Because it seems like the fans continue to get more and more hostile."
So how can incidents like this be prevented in the future? Or can they?
White Sox spokesman Scott Reifert said he couldn't discuss any security changes. But Friday night, there were two uniformed and armed Chicago police officers stationed near where Ligue and his son entered the field.
About a dozen security guards -- all of whom are off-duty police officers -- already are positioned at both ends of each dugout and elsewhere on the field.
"Whenever something happens, you're not being responsible if you don't at least re-examine what you're doing," White Sox general manager Kenny Williams said.
Security at ballparks tightened after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Fans are restricted from bringing in large bags, and smaller ones are searched.
But like the screenings at airports, they've relaxed with time. And with no metal detectors at ballparks, there's nothing to prevent someone from bringing in a weapon.
"You can't monitor 43,000 people," White Sox outfielder Aaron Rowand said. "You can't put security guards out there on the field of play -- unless you want to call in the National Guard and have them stand in front."
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