Patrol Officer Stanczyk: Protecting the Visitors’ Bullpen
Cleveland Patrol Officer Jeff Stanczyk has worked in the Cleveland Indians Visitors’ Bullpen for 20 years, while working on the field at Cleveland Browns games for 32 years. Stanczyk is known for handing out Tootsie Rolls to all fans and players he interacts with during the day.
TribeVibe: What are your duties as police officer at Progressive Field?
Jeff Stanczyk: Provide a safe environment for the fans and the players. I’m assigned the bullpen, so my job is to keep the guys in the visiting bullpen safe so they’re not bothered too much. [I] interact with the fans because that’s what this is about.
TV: Have you seen much fan-player interaction in the bullpen?
JS: Generally, the guys in the bullpen are pretty nice. A few of the fans get a little out of hand, but 90 percent of them have interaction with the bullpen. The guys in the bullpen are very courteous; they’re professionals, and they act that way.
TV: Do you have a favorite visiting bullpen?
JS: All of them are dynamic. Chicago’s great, Minnesota, Tampa Bay. Every bullpen has its own aura, its own makeup of characters. When [former White Sox pitcher Bobby] Jenks was here, we’d always be pulling jokes on each other. If the guys feel comfortable with me, they’ll open up to me if something happens. It may not be the most professional thing to do, but that’s the way I work. That’s the way I am.
TV: Why did you choose to hand out Tootsie Rolls?
JS: I worked the Browns for 31 years. In the early 80s, I started handing bubblegum to the workers on the field. That went to the fans. Since the early 80s, I’ve been providing candy to the fans and the people I work with, some of the fans. It just became like a thing. I enjoy doing it, especially with the fans because it gets them to see that policemen are approachable. We’re not only here for enforcement; they know what we’re here for. I love the kids and the old people. If they feel a little more comfortable with you, it makes the whole experience better. If they want the people coming here to have a good time, then have a good time. That’s my style; everyone has their own style. Just like you have your own style, the players have their own style, that’s my style.
Thank God they allow me to do it here. They called me about 10 years ago, and they said, ‘Can you quit passing out gum? They [are] finding it stuck everywhere.’ They had to hire somebody to scrape it off. So, I went to Tootsie Rolls because they’re very aerodynamically correct if you have to toss them.
TV: How many bags of Tootsie Rolls do you go through in one day?
JS: At the Browns, I’d go through about 2300 pieces. Here, it depends where I work. If I work the bullpen, since I only have limited contact with the people when I come out between innings, I go through maybe 1000 a game. People are catching on to this Tootsie Roll thing because the bags are smaller, and they cost more. I don’t care; I find pleasure in that. I don’t gamble or smoke, so I’ve got my vices.
TV: What has been your best memory on the field?
JS: When they were in the playoffs, all of those games were special. I had the fortune of befriending a young fan who had leukemia. He would come, and then one day, he didn’t come. That’s what’s kind of special. I have sung the Star Spangled Banner here twice, and I can’t tell you what an honor that was. It’s really Britney Spears singing it, but I just lip-sync it. The Indians don’t have to let me do this, but I think they recognize it has to be a complete experience. They do it because it’s the right thing to do. It puts you more in contact with a policeman not on an enforcement level. 99 times out of 100, that’s the response that you get.
TV: Have you given Tootsie Rolls to any Indians players?
JS: Back in the day, I gave it to Jose Mesa and Julian Tavarez. They were pretty crazy. We were close enough. They were good guys, and all the people are. I’m glad I get to work the visitors’ bullpen because all their job is here is [playing baseball]. Everything else should be out of their minds. I hope I provide an environment for them so that they feel comfortable with that. That’s my responsibility here, too. Sometimes you’ve got to be the police, which is unfortunate, but the people create that situation; we respond to it. It’s enjoyable. It’s got to be one of the best organizations.
-Megan Golden, TribeVibe contributor