Cindy Wilson photo/Telegraph-Journal

A trip from the mound to the Hill

by Sandra Davis - Saturday, May 24, 2008

This article is courtesy of Telegraph-Journal

SAINT JOHN - For years Mark Dorrington did his best work poised 60 feet from an opponent he kept directly in his sight.

These days, the Saint John native and former national baseball team pitcher never knows where his foes might lurk. They could be anywhere.

Dorrington, one of the best baseball players southern New Brunswick has ever produced, is a Mountie who has spent the past four years helping protect the country's leader, first former Prime Minister Paul Martin and today, Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

He got to know them fairly well - Martin and his wife, Sheila, were friendly and sociable with the officers charged with their protection, while Harper and his wife, Laureen, are amicable but reserved. Dorrington gets an up-close view of the workings of Parliament Hill, and is close-mouthed about them.

But it's a major-league job the former athlete almost didn't take.

After serving with the RCMP in Langley, B.C. for 10 years, Dorrington requested a transfer to a quieter position.

"My staffing sergeant asked if I'd be interested in doing the Prime Minister's detail. Originally, I said no," Dorrington said, because he didn't understand what the job entailed.

But after discussing the move to Ottawa with his wife, Kerry Gorman, he decided it was a good idea.

"I was told it was a good opportunity to see things you probably wouldn't see otherwise," he said.

Turns out, it has been interesting - and them some.

"I go to places now where I would not go on vacation but I'm glad I did," he said, listing trips that include a week in Manhattan and one in Barbados, a week-and-a-half in Berlin, and some time in the Baltic Sea area.

"We stay in hotels that I wouldn't be staying in," he said.

No matter where the Prime Minister is, you can be assured that his security entourage is there, too, Dorrington said.

"If I was the Prime Minister, I wouldn't be comfortable with that many people around me 24 hours a day," he said. "He has very little privacy. Basically, they're at work 24/7. They can't go for a walk without being surrounded by bodyguards.

"They can't leave their property without bodyguards. Even when they're on vacation, they have bodyguards with them."

Dorrington can't be too specific about what his job entails for security reasons, but he will say that being observant is one of the most important skills.

"You have to be vigilant of the surroundings, be aware of strange vehicles parked along the route we take or people hanging out at entrances or exits, people who don't look like they belong in a crowd, somebody in mid-July wearing a long overcoat, for example," he said.

He and 60 other Mounties who work the Prime Minister's detail are consumed with logistics, including figuring out the safest, quickest routes, which hotel rooms and ballrooms are best for events, where best to place bodyguards and which exits to use.

So far, Dorrington has had no close calls.

"There have been people we've had to get security to remove, but nothing serious," he said.

The Prime Minister's bodyguards and drivers work together as a team.

"We do a lot of motorcade training, to make smooth transitions, drop-offs and pickups. A lot of the time we're walking through buildings. We might go in one exit and then be told at the last second we're coming out a different exit. We have to advance the buildings, know our way around the buildings and the route."

Dorrington's amateur baseball career began when he was eight years old, growing up in Lakewood Heights. He started as a member of the East Suburban Little League, then advanced to junior ball with the Saint John Pepsis and eventually to the Saint John Blue Jays, later called the Saint John Alpines.

His love of the sport and skill eventually carried him to the Canadian senior championships in 2004 where he was named best right-handed pitcher and he got to wear the Team Canada jersey while playing for the national junior team 21 years ago. He has played in 15 national tournaments. Today, at 37, he plays recreational ball with the Ottawa Sweatsocks.

His older brother, Mike, also a well-known pitcher, played professionally for a month-and-a-half in the New York-Penn League, a Class A organization that feeds 14 MLB teams including the Blue Jays, Yankees, Marlins and Tigers. Mike Dorrington gave up baseball for law and now practises outside Boston.

Mark Dorrington, graduated from Saint John High School in 1988. He has been back visiting family and still calls Saint John home. He plans on eventually retiring back in the area with his wife, who is originally from Forest Hills, and daughters, Mya, 5, Emmy, 3 and a third due in August.

dorrington.jpg - Mark Dorrington says he doesnt envy the Prime Minister, who has people and bodyguards around him every wakeful hour. - Taken by Cindy Wilson/Telegraph-Journal

dorrington2.jpg - Saint John native Mark Dorrington, right, keeps watch as Prime Minister Stephen Harper greets NHL commissioner Gary Bettman at Rexall Place in Edmonton during Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Finals in 2006. Dorrington, a Mountie, has worked on the Prime Ministers detail for four years. - Taken by Jason Ransom/PMO Photo