By KAMEEL STANLEY
Times Staff Writer
ST. PETERSBURG - A New Port Richey man says he was assaulted by a Philadelphia Philies player following Thursday's game against the Rays.
Robert Eaton, a 25-year-old father of two, said Phillies pitcher J.C. Romero grabbed him by the neck and pushed him after he made a comment about steroids.
Romero initially had no comment when approached by Philadelphia media after Saturday's game in Toronto, but when asked by a Daily News reporter if he wanted to hear the accusation, Romero replied: "What'd he say - that he was drunk and got into a fight? ... I'm not going to comment about it. I'm trying to be professional and I don't really want to get into that. Don't make a story out of nothing. I don't know what's going on. I'm just finding out through you guys."
Officials for both teams confirmed they knew of an incident, but neither identified the player Saturday afternoon. A St. Petersburg Police dispatcher confirmed that a report for a battery call was taken at the stadium at about 11 p.m. Thursday.
"We're disappointed to learn about the alleged incident with a Rays fan and one of our players following Thursday night's game at Tropicana Field,'' the Philadelphia Phillies said in a statement.
"We are in the process of gathering all of the details surrounding the situation. Until such information is provided, it would be inappropriate for us to comment at this time."
On Friday night, the Rays released this statement:
"We are aware of an alleged incident between a Phillies player and a fan. At this point it is a police matter and for that reason we won't have any further comment."
Eaton said he was attempting to get autographs from Phillies players when the incident happened.
After players brushed him off, Eaton said he called out to Romero, something to the effect of, "How about you get me some juice?"
Romero was recently reinstated from a 50-game suspension for violating baseball's policy against performance enhancing substances. The pitcher claimed the test resulted from a dietary supplement he bought over the counter.
Romero snapped, Eaton said, telling him to "shut the f---- up" and that he didn't know what he was talking about.
Eaton said he replied that Romero was the one who'd been suspended recently.
"He reared back and kinda grazed my chin and grabbed me by the neck and threw me back," Eaton said. "I was in shock."
Eaton's lawyer, James Magazine, said he was retained late Friday afternoon and hasn't had time to investigate the case.
"I don't feel what I said was wrong," Eaton said. "I feel if you cheat the game you're going to hear it from people. He brought that on himself. I just can't believe that a professional athlete would cross the line."
Staff writer Marc Topkin contributed to this report