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Cleveland Indians fans are getting fed up.

February 23, 1995

WINTER HAVEN, Fla. (AP) _ Cleveland Indians fans are getting fed up.

Fans at the Indians’ spring camp were peeved Wednesday by a barricade that temporarily kept them from watching players work out, while three season-ticket holders back home sued in an attempt to keep their seats without having to pay for replacement baseball.

``If they’re locking fans out, they’re in a peck of trouble,″ said Jerry Walker, a retired General Motors Corp. worker from Mt. Vernon, Ohio, who has a winter home in Winter Haven.

Walker and Glen DeBoard, also a winter transplant from Mt. Vernon, were among about a dozen fans who were stopped at the barricade on a small access road just beyond the center field fence of one of the Indians’ practice fields. The barrier would have allowed fans to see players on only one of the six fields.

It was all a mistake, said team executive Bob DiBiasio, who conferred with manager Mike Hargrove and had the barricades moved about an hour after practice began.

``The issue is safety,″ said DiBiasio, Indians vice president of public relations. ``Fans were getting onto the field and into the dugouts. We have this problem every year in spring training, fans running onto the field, picking up balls. So I said, let’s go back to cordoning off the facility. Somebody just put it in the wrong place.″

By the time the barricades were moved, about two dozen fans had arrived. None seemed too angry about the temporary inconvenience.

``No big deal,″ DeBoard said. ``We just made a few comments that they shouldn’t treat their fans like that, because we love ’em.″

In Cleveland, meanwhile, three fans asked Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Judge Stuart Friedman to issue an order blocking the Indians from demanding full payment for season tickets by Tuesday.

The Indians have pledged to refund a portion of the ticket price for games in which replacement players are used.

But the team says the refunds won’t be issued until after the games are played, and it has warned fans that refusing to buy season tickets now would cost them their seats.

``This is a squeeze play, pure and simple,″ said Robert Sweeney, a lawyer for the three fans.

Indians officials would not discuss the lawsuit.

``We are aware of it, and we have no comment,″ DiBiasio said.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of season-ticket holders Thomas Roche, Carol Karabin and Dr. Daniel Sweeney. Daniel Sweeney, a Cleveland physician, is the son of Robert Sweeney.

The team said in a letter to season-ticket holders _ attached as an exhibit in the lawsuit _ that it ``just wouldn’t be practical″ to issue reduced-price tickets now.

``For example, if we initially charged less and mailed out discounted season tickets, we wouldn’t be able to collect the difference and reissue full-price tickets on short notice after the strike ends,″ the team’s letter states. ``Collecting the difference at the gate wouldn’t be convenient for our fans, either. (Picture the long lines at the gate if ticket-takers had to distinguish discounted tickets from full-price tickets.)″

Acting baseball commissioner Bud Selig told a U.S. Senate Judiciary subcommittee earlier this month that season-ticket holders would be able to get refunds and keep their seats.

But officials of several teams challenged the notion, and Selig’s spokesman, Rich Levin, said later there was no central ticket policy for all teams.

The lawsuit claims the Indians are violating a contract with season-ticket buyers by requiring them to choose between losing their seats or watching something other than major league-caliber baseball.

The fans also accuse the Indians of violating the state’s Consumer Sales Practices Act by failing to provide a major league-caliber team.

The lawsuit seeks no damages or relief other than an order suspending the Tuesday deadline. The judge scheduled a hearing for Friday.

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