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Relievers, outfielders on the front line

Originally Published: May 27, 2005
By Jerry Crasnick | ESPN Insider
Phillies reliever Rheal Cormier just wanted to be a good dad when he invited his son to batting practice before an interleague game in Minnesota last June. Justin Cormier, 10, donned a No. 37 jersey and spent an hour shagging fly balls in the outfield and experiencing every Little Leaguer's fantasy.

It might have been a perfect day if not for the presence of several rowdy teenagers who screamed profanities at Justin from the outfield stands. This was not the type of background noise one typically associates with a father-son bonding moment.

"These kids were dropping [expletives] on Justin just because he was on the field and they wished they were," Cormier said. "I told him, 'This is part of what daddy does. It's what he has to live with.' "

The perks of being a major-league ballplayer are well-known. You fly on charters, stay in ritzy hotels, make millions of dollars and get all the free bubble gum you want. If it means being called to testify at a congressional steroid hearing every now and then, so be it.

But in too many instances these days, hostility reigns in the work place. If Yankees outfielder Gary Sheffield isn't mingling with fans in the Fenway Park stands, Colorado's Matt Holliday is being grabbed by a bleacher creature as he retrieves a ball and tries to make a throw at Dodger Stadium. During a recent series in Oakland, New York first baseman Jason Giambi had a beer thrown at him while heading to the dugout, and Athletics outfielder Eric Byrnes latched onto a fan who had run onto the field and was trying to escape by scaling the wall.

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