Brady Ballard will be the GM at the Ballpark of the Palm Beaches, overseeing stadium operations as well as marketing, advertising, sales and community relations. An official announcement is expected Tuesday.
Ballard has served as vice president of Historic Dodgertown in Vero Beach since October 2013. Before that, he was general manager for four years for the Daytona Cubs, the Class A Florida State League affiliate of the Chicago Cubs.
A former Riviera Beach police commander and radio host is announcing today that he’s joining the race to become sheriff.
Rick Sessa said he’s filing paperwork on Monday, but said he’s announcing the news on his radio show “The Beat: Real Cop Talk” on 900 AM at 4 p.m. today.
“I feel an obligation to run. I can’t sit back and let this sheriff go unopposed for another four years,” Sessa said. “I grew up here, I policed here, and we need to do something.”
For years, Sessa has been critical of Sheriff Ric Bradshaw, who is seeking his fourth term. He’s been outspoken about the number of shootings by sheriff’s deputies and blames the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office for ending a previous incarnation of his radio program by pressuring the show’s sponsors. His show resumed last year after nearly two years off the air.
If elected, “We’re going to reopen some of these shooting cases, and if we find misconduct or coverup or malicious attempts at prosecution, people will be held accountable,” Sessa said.
Sessa, who was with Riviera Beach police from 1986 to 2006, will join retired Riviera Beach police Maj. Alex Freeman and Samuel L. Thompson in challenging Bradshaw.
He was looking forward to what would have been his 10th year working with the team in Jupiter when one day in late January he started experiencing stomach pain and shortness of breath, said Sue, Roger’s wife of 37 years.
It got worse in the early morning hours of Feb. 1 and he went to the emergency room. He was told he’d suffered a heart attack earlier in the week. His condition deteriorated throughout the day.
Of course, Gill wore a Giants shirt and Marlins jacket to the emergency room that day, which caught the attention of at least one doctor.
“The specialist said, ‘I’m a little confused. What’s the Marlins jacket doing on the chair?’ He said, ‘I work as a Marlins during spring training but I’m really a Giants fan at heart,’’’ Sue recalled.
Gill, whose family rooted for the old New York Giants, was a fixture at Roger Dean Stadium. His “office” was a metal folding chair just outside the glass doors to the Marlins offices.
His main job was to keep fans away from restricted areas, but he often offered directions and advice on the best spots to see players. If he wasn’t deep into a crossword puzzle, he was quick to open the office doors for arriving officials, media — even fans who asked to use to the restroom.
Outfielder Cody Ross and manager Fredi Gonzalez were among the Marlins who would greet Gill by name as they arrived every morning. Once in a while, the kid in him would come out and he’d snag an autograph.
When spring training ended, Gill’s baseball work wasn’t over.
He finagled his way into getting a part-time job for the San Francisco Giants as a Ball Dude – a guy who sits on the filed on a folding chair and retrieves foul balls. He would make one trip to San Francisco each year, often for a Marlins series, and dress up in a Giants uniform.
He was mentioned a few times during the games by Marlins television broadcasters. And for his pay, the Giants gave him credits to purchase souvenirs.
“He would get on the internet and see which hat or shirt he could buy. He was like a little kid,’’ Sue said.
Nothing matched the excitement he felt a few months ago, Sue said, when the Marlins hired their new hitting coach – Barry Bonds.
“He had so many Barry Bonds books, He’d ask me, Sue, which one do you think I should ask him to sign?’ I said, ‘I don’t know if Barry Bonds signs.’ He said, “Well, I’m going to try.’’’
When Ichiro Suzuki arrived last spring, Gill was asked to make sure autograph seekers didn’t get too unruly.
“He said, ‘I’d let them sign for a while and when it was overwhelming I’d say that’s enough.’ He said, ‘I might have to do that with Barry Bonds,’’’ Sue recalled.
By the middle of January, Gill had arranged his Barry Bonds books and photos at his North Palm Beach home for preparation to take to Roger Dean Stadium.
“He had them all in a pile ready to go,’’ Sue said.
“Roger touched a lot of lives. He was a good and gentle man. He always did the next right thing. My heart will heal eventually, but right now it’s pretty broken.’’
The Marlins will pay tribute to Gill in their game programs during spring training. There’s also a chance the team will erect a plaque at their offices in Jupiter.
“Roger is missed,’’ said Mike Bauer, the stadium’s general manager. “He really made an impact with the Marlins.’’
For 13 years, the place to be for local autograph-seekers during spring training was the sidewalk outside the Miami Marlins clubhouse building at Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter.
Fans could reach through the bars of an aluminum gate along the team parking lot, allowing them to hand baseballs and photographs to Josh Beckett, Giancarlo Stanton and other Marlins players as they arrived for workouts in the morning and departed in the afternoon.
Those up-close-and-personal days are over.
When the Marlins open camp Friday, fans will not have access to the sidewalk in front of the building. They will be blocked at the entrance where Avenue A meets Stadium Drive.
If any fans manage to sneak by, they will find the gate covered by a mesh screen, recently installed to block anyone from reaching through the gates.
A Marlins official said the new “control mechanisms” are meant for the safety of young fans, who sometimes wander into the path of a car in their zest to collect a signature.
But fans are crying foul. They say the new measures go against what spring training is supposed to be about — the one place where they can get the kind of access to players rarely afforded in the regular season.
“They put that up to keep the millionaires away from the fans,’’ said Rich Reeves of Atlanta.
He might be right. According to people familiar with the situation, some players last year complained to team officials about the same “autograph brokers” – adults with bags full of baseballs and bats — who would set up on lawn chairs behind the fences at 5 a.m. every day to get signatures.
Ichiro was the big draw last spring, attracting fans who would gather four deep against the fence. With all-time home run king Barry Bonds joining the team as hitting coach this year, the Marlins decided to restrict access, the sources said.
But local baseball fans say the Marlins have had big-name stars in the past without any problems.
“I don’t understand why after all of these years they’re doing this now,’’ said Richie Nestro of Jupiter.
“This ballpark used to be real fan-friendly. I used to bring my grandson. He got to get close to Giancarlo and all the players. Now, by putting up this fence, that’s out the window.’’
On Friday, fans will see a temporary barrier. But crews have already removed two palm trees to make way for a permanent sliding gate that will be installed in March, said Marlins vice president Claude Delorme.
“We were having lot of issues with people and kids going into the parking lot as players were backing out their cars last year. We wanted to take everything out of the parking lot. This is really a safety issue for us and a control mechanism,’’ he said.
“The last thing we want is to wait for an incident to happen and then say ‘we should have’ (done something to prevent it).’’
At the request of new Marlins manager Don Mattingly, fans will also be blocked from the two practice fields closest to the clubhouse, Fields 2 and 3. The sidewalks along the other four fields, known as “The Quad” near Frederick Small Road, will be open to fans.
“Mattingly asked us to look into it so we could better control the transition (of players) from field to field during the workouts,’’ Delorme said.
Fans will still have plenty of access for autographs, he said.
“I know there’s a few people who have expressed concern but they can still get to the players as they’re arriving. They will have access to players as they are going to the field for the game,’’ he said.
But fans say it’s unfair to restrict access to the prime autograph spot — the gate by the player lot.
“I just don’t get the point, after all these years, closing it off now,’’ said Adam Alexander of West Palm Beach.
“My son is 9. He was looking forward to coming to get autographs. He’s disappointed.’’
The access restrictions aren’t the only changes at Roger Dean Stadium this spring.
The ballpark has gotten rid of the popular grass berm in right field where fans could pay $15 to $20 to sit on the grass. It has been replaced with a 136-seat capacity Bullpen Club section, where tickets range from $52 to $60.
All of the changes are prompting some fans to say they will abandon Jupiter next year and spend time instead at the Ballpark of the Palm Beaches, the new spring training home of the Houston Astros and Washington Nationals south of 45th Street in West Palm Beach.
“They’re turning off a lot of fans,’’ Nestro said.
“And a lot of people don’t even know about (the restricted access) yet. Wait till they show up in a few days. They’re going to be shocked.’’
The Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office is investigating how the home addresses of thousands of officers, prosecutors, judges and others were released online over the weekend.
The addresses are redacted from the county Property Appraiser’s website at the request of police and prosecutors, but friends of a former sheriff’s deputy with a grudge against the agency obtained the information and posted it online.
It includes nearly 3,600 names and addresses of local and federal judges and prosecutors, FBI agents and officers from many local police departments. It also lists addresses of facilities that house victims of domestic violence.
The Palm Beach Post is not naming the site or linking to it because of the sensitive nature of the records.
How the information ended up online is a mystery. Pat Poston, the property appraiser’s director of exemption services, which handles requests by police to redact their home addresses, said county information technology specialists said no one had hacked the property appraiser’s database.
“We’ve been contacted by the sheriff’s office,” Poston said. “They are beginning an investigation.”
A spokeswoman from PBSO hasn’t responded to a request for comment.
The site that posted the information is linked to former deputy Mark Dougan, a longtime thorn in the side of Sheriff Ric Bradshaw and his second-in-command, Chief Deputy Michael Gauger, who has filed a civil suit against Dougan.
Dougan denied responsibility for the release. He said friends in Russia were responsible, but said he knew “a long time ago” that the hackers had the information.
Dougan said the release was retribution against the sheriff’s office, which he claimed had hacked into his personal Facebook and email accounts without a warrant.
“It sucks, but if the government doesn’t want their privacy breached, then they can’t go around breaching the privacy of citizens without a warrant,” he said. “Yes, 4,000 people were not involved in hacking my stuff, but those 4,000 people didn’t do anything to stop it.”
Although state law allows many types of public employees to request their home addresses be redacted from property appraiser websites, many don’t. Those who were not redacted are not exposed on the new posting. The 3,600 all had taken advantage of the state law to keep people from knowing where they live.
That left him in a wheelchair, night and day. Pretty hard to climb into a bunk bed without a hip.
It also left Horn in excruciating pain. And an FDOC doctor took away his morphine, too – cold turkey.
In fact, FDOC’s medical staff ignored outside surgeon’s instructions, and so for months, prison medical staff drained Horn’s infected leg rather than operate on it.
At one point, says Horn, they suctioned the infected liquid out of his leg with what appeared to be dental equipment.
Even when one surgeon – who didn’t work for DOC – said Horn had to go to an ER for emergency treatment of his leg, which was oozing infected “material”, FDOC and its private medical contractors ignored his instructions, the surgeon said.
But Horn reports he got a hospital bed this month, and Lortab three times a day. He also reports he has an infection in the leg again. And, of course, no hipbone.
George Horn didn’t get to prison because he is an angel, and he would be the first to say so. He’s in for burglary. But as he told The Post back in 2014, “Being in prison is my punishment to pay my debt to society. I messed up.”
“But,” he said, “I’m a prisoner, not a monster.”
Horn is in federal court, suing both the state and the private medical company which oversaw his treatment, at least, part of the time. They moved to have the suit tossed. A federal magistrate just said no, and in pretty strong language.
Bishop Gerald Barbarito of the Catholic Diocese of Palm Beach is coming under fire from some parishioners for asking priests this past weekend to read at Mass a letter criticizing another priest.
“How dare this bishop use the church of God to discuss his dirty laundry. Shame on him,” said Theresa Annos of Delray Beach, who said her husband stopped her from nearly yelling out from the middle of the church when the priest at St. Jude Cathlic Church in Boca Raton was reading Barbarito’s letter.
The letter sought to clarify allegations made last week by Father John Gallagher, who claimed he was transferred out of Holy Name of Jesus Church in West Palm Beach as punishment for altering authorities in January 2015 to a pedophile priest.
“When I heard that letter on Sunday I was ready to get up and walk out. I was astounded,” said Barbara DuBois of Boca Raton.
“I really felt for the pastor having to do this because you could tell he was totally uncomfortable. He stumbled over words.”
Barbarito’s letter capped a series of extraordinary rebuttals by the diocese, which included two separate statements after Gallagher’s allegations first surfaced Jan. 25 in a report by the Irish Independent newspaper.
Although several South Florida media outlets reported the story last week, many parishioners were not aware of it. And some of them seemed puzzled Sunday when they heard their pastors at Mass reading the bishop’s letter.
“For that bishop to send a letter to every church to be read at every Mass when Sunday Mass should just be for worship, I think that is the most disgraceful thing I have ever heard of,” Sandy Scharmann said.
Dianne Laubert, the diocese’s spokesperson, acknowledged that the diocese “received some emails and phone calls from people who didn’t want the letter read at church.
“But I will tell you they were very minimal. We’ve had positive feedback from people who appreciated Bishop Barbarito talking to them so honestly,” she said.
Barbarito, when sharing the letter with parishes on Friday, only requested that it be read at Mass. It was never a requirement for the letter to be read, Laubert said.
Barbarito’s cover letter closes: “For the good of all, I believe that it deserves special attention. I thank you in advance for your cooperation in this matter.”
Some priests were under the impression that they had to read the letter, according to several churchgoers who spoke to their priests after Mass.
Barbarito oversees a diocese that comprises 280,000 Catholics in five counties in Southeastern Florida: Palm Beach, Martin, St. Lucie, Indian River and Okeechobee.
Here is the text of the bishop’s letter:
Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ:
As your shepherd, which I am privileged to be, I wish to publicly state that I am deeply grateful to our extraordinary staff of competent people in regard to the protection of children, who are committed to their role not as a job, but as a calling, and give their time and attention in a manner that gives us all cause for great reassurance. As some of you are aware, a great deal of disappointing media attention has been focused on Father John Gallagher, a priest of this Diocese, who has made unfounded allegations against the Diocese of Palm Beach and the Church in general. Our Diocese in no way, as Fr. Gallagher erroneously asserts, tried to “cover up” the inappropriate behavior of a visiting priest, Father José Palimattom, who was assisting at Holy Name of Jesus Parish, which Father Gallagher administered. In fact, in accord with our very rigorous policies pertaining to the protection of children, we not only immediately reported the incident to the police and State Attorney, but cooperated as fully as we could in the investigation.
The matter referred to had nothing to do, as Father Gallagher again erroneously asserts, with his not being named pastor of the parish. His assertion of this is but another one of his fabrications, which is causing harm to the Church. I truly regret Father Gallagher’s behavior for which there is no founded reason. We have wonderful, hard working and dedicated priests in the Diocese of Palm Beach to whom I am deeply grateful. Father Gallagher’s harmful assertions are an embarrassment to my brother priests as well as to me.
I wish not only to clarify this unfortunate matter, but also to ask that you pray for Father Gallagher. As always, he will be given every opportunity for appropriate priestly ministry, based on his willingness to tell the truth, accept assistance, and apologize for the harm he continues to cause.
As the family of Christ in the Diocese of Palm Beach, I thank you for being a community of great faith, mercy and truth, which has always been a personal inspiration to me.
With gratitude for your support and prayers in this and every matter, and with every prayerful wish, I am
Sincerely yours in Christ,
Most Reverend Gerald M. Barbarito
Bishop of Palm Beach
Artist Blessing Hancock will be among the teams’ representatives who will help co-host the two-hour gathering on Saturday at the Johnson History Museum located in the historic 1916 Palm Beach County courthouse, 300 Dixie Highway in downtown West Palm Beach.
From 10 a.m. to noon, members of the public are encouraged to bring local baseball memorabilia – from ticket stubs and programs to uniforms and photographs – and share any stories they have of interacting with players in West Palm Beach.
Organizers hope the stories and memorabilia will serve two purposes – to influence the design the new ballpark’s art and architecture and be part of a special exhibition about the history of baseball in Palm Beach County.
The museum exhibition would coincide with the scheduled opening of The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches in January 2017.
Also co-hosting the event are the Historical Society of Palm Beach County, the Palm Beach County Art in Public Places program.