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Rowdy Trop fans pile up

ST. PETERSBURG — The windowless room sits next to the VIP gate, just feet from where celebrities duck into Tropicana Field.

At the beginning of each Rays game, the room is filled with calm, green-uniformed St. Petersburg police officers.

But a few innings in, the drunk and rowdy start streaming into the police holding area.

During Friday night's playoff game between the Rays and Red Sox, more fans were brought into this room than during any other Rays game before — 32 fans in all.

"Get up on your knees!" a female officer yelled at a handcuffed, barefoot Red Sox fan Friday night as at least three officers dragged the limp man into the holding tank.

Police said David Edward Pamico, 42, was causing problems in Section 125. When officers confronted him, he cursed at them and spit on a security guard, police said.

He fought with officers and refused to walk into the holding area. So police carried him. He was arrested and faces five charges, including battery on a law enforcement officer, police said.

"It could be complete boredom or it could be nonstop all night," said Officer Chuck Tatem, who has worked at Tropicana Field since it opened. Friday night "was like a factory."

The last time the Rays played the Red Sox, about 35 fans were ejected during the entire three-game series. Friday night alone nearly tied that total, and Saturday was busy as well — seven ejections by the bottom of the fourth inning.

Most ejections stemmed from verbal, and often profane, arguments between fans from opposing teams, police said.

If they are simply rowdy and rude, they are given a trespass warning and escorted to their cars. Fans who take it further are arrested and taken to jail.

Andy Munkittrick, 27, was among those ejected Friday night.

He said he was ringing his cowbell according to etiquette before the third out when a Red Sox fan grabbed it and threatened to "kick his a--" if he rang it again.

Munkittrick rang it again. Police took him to the holding area, saying it was an "aggressive move," according to Munkittrick.

He was banned from Tropicana Field Friday and Saturday, which infuriated the two-year season ticket holder because he would miss the second game, too.

"I didn't do anything wrong," he said. "This is garbage. Complete garbage."

It wasn't just Rays fans. The Red Sox nation did its part, too.

Boston fan Zack LaChappelle was thrown out, though he insists he did nothing more than ask another fan why he swiped his hat and threw it.

"I was assaulted by a Rays fan," said LaChappelle, 32 of Clearwater. "I did nothing. Zero."

In dealing with rowdy fans, police serve as the last line of defense after fan hosts and Trop security.

For the postseason games, St. Petersburg police run a special command center and oversee the calls on a map of the Trop projected on a screen.

"We don't know what to expect from one minute to the next," said spokesman Bill Proffitt.

Chris Michalicka, 31, of St. Petersburg, was the sixth ejection Friday night. He said he was simply "being too loud at a baseball game."

Michalicka said a Red Sox fan came up to him bragging about his team being the best. Michalicka started yelling at him. That's when police intervened.

He also received a two-day trespass warning. A police officer warned in a stern voice that if he returned to the Trop, he would be arrested.

"I don't know what crime I committed," he said. "Nothing happened."

As police led him outside Gate 4, he shouted, "Go Rays! Go Rays!"

But police would see him again. Michalicka was arrested for violating the trespass warning later that night.

In his mug shot, he wears a little smile and a Rayhawk.

Times staff writer Curtis Krueger contributed to this report. Stephanie Garry can be reached at (727) 892-2374 or sgarry@sptimes.com.

Rowdy Trop fans pile up 10/11/08 [Last modified: Thursday, October 16, 2008 9:43am]
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