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Your youth baseball brawl roundup

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It’s playoff season for youth baseball, which means managers, parents and players who act only a little crazy when they get a bug up their butt about something during the regular season now have the stakes raised high enough that the same bug will cause them to go ballistic.

Here are a few highlights:

DODGEVILLE, Wisc., July 26 — The winners of the losers’ bracket in the Ohio Valley Regional is going to the Babe Ruth Senior World Series because of a game-ending brawl between the two teams in the first game of the best-of-three championship.

About the only detail not being argued is that Noblesville (Ind.) came back from three runs down in the sixth inning to lead the Hammond (Ind.) Chiefs, 11-10.  Oh, the only other detail not being argued is that Babe Ruth headquarters in Trenton, N.J., ruled both 16-18-year-old teams out of the tournament. In between, it gets messy.

According to the Noblesville coach, talking to the near-hometown Indianapolis Star, all three Hammond coach freaked the fuck out when the game-leading run was scored on an obstruction call against the Chiefs, and all three got ejected. With no adults left to coach Hammond, the umpires declared Noblesville the winner. The Noblesville coach said the teams lined up to shake hands, and while his team was “excited,” the Hammond team was in a rage, the flames being fanned by one of their coaches. A Chiefs player jumped one of the Noblesville players, and the brawl was on.

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What happened in Dodgeville with the Chiefs, as re-enacted on ice. (NSFW language)

The Hammond coach copped to nothing, and in fact said he was trying to keep the peace and separate players, according to his interview with the near-hometown Northwest Indiana Times in Munster, Ind.

Meanwhile, the Dodgeville police said they arrested one fan on disorderly conduct charges, allegedly because he punched a Noblesville coach.

So congratulations to Cross Plains (Wisc.), which advances to the Babe Ruth Senior World Series for not punching anybody.

VALLEJO, Calif., July 21 — Vallejo Babe Ruth coach David Davis was booked in the local hoosegow on a charge of battery against a sports official. He allegedly punched a first-base umpire during the state 15-and-under championship tournament. Davis was arrested at the local police station as he was filling out an assault report — against the umpire, David Abbitt, a 26-year veteran.

Abbitt said Davis sucker-punched him — knocking him out and requiring him to be taken by ambulance to a hospital — as he argued a close call against the Vallejo team at first base. Davis, meanwhile, citing scratches on his arm he said were made by Abbitt, said he was only defending himself, and that the knockout punch never happened. Davis told the San Jose Mercury News:

[After the umpire kicked him out] Davis then describes a highly emotional situation between the two men, with alleged spitting, swearing, racial epithets and self defense.

“I thought it was a make-up call, so I went down to my knees and came up and he said ‘You’re outta here,'” Davis said, claiming that the knockout punch never happened. “All I did was defend myself. I just put my hands up as a reaction. Guy falls down, looks at me from the ground and puts on a tirade like he was hurt. It was weak and it was fake.”

Apparently there were no police or security at the July 18 game because of cutbacks by the city of Vallejo. After the Davis-Abbitt incident, somehow, some way, security was found for the tournament.

GURNEE, Ill., July 17 — Unlike the other two incidents, this was not a playoff game. But it doesn’t have to be one for tempers to get out of hand.

According to the Daily Herald of Arlington Heights, Ill., police were called after a fight broke out a 15- to 18-year-old Colt (Pony League) game. Two opposing players wrestled at the plate — a runner trying to score, and the catcher who tried to block him (without the ball in his hand) during the last out of the game. The umpires did not get involved, and player tempers cooled.

However, parents started screaming and fighting with each other. That’s when police were called. But no arrests were made. The presence of the authorities inspired a lovefest, according to the Herald:

[Gurnee Police Commander Jay] Patrick said the players on both sides hugged as the three cops left the field. The teams were not named.

“It could have really gone south,” Jacobs said. “But when (police) got there, everybody started to calm down quite a bit.”

For an incident like this, that counts as a happy ending.

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Written by rkcookjr

July 28, 2010 at 2:00 pm

Youth baseball coach drowns trying to rescue son, teammates

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By all accounts, Darin McGahey of McDonough, Ga., was the kind of baseball coach you wanted for your child — knowledgeable, patient, easygoing and selfless. Tragically, one last act of selflessness led to his death.

McGahey drowned July 7 off Navarre Beach, Fla., while trying to save his 11-year-old son and three of his other Locust Grove Razorback charges from drowning themselves. His death came on the second day of the July 6-11 USSSA baseball AA-level (rec league, restricted rosters or drafted players) World Series in Pace, Fla.

From the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

On [July 13], members of the [11]-and-under Locust Grove Razorbacks, dressed in uniform, will attend the McDonough man’s funeral in the town where he lived. McGahey was their assistant coach. …

McGahey had jumped in with the boys flailing away in water over their heads. One of them was his son, Noah, 11, one of the team’s best players. The rescue became more difficult the farther the older McGahey went out. …

Two other dads found Darin McGahey, pulled him to the beach barely conscious and frantically administered CPR. Other parents did their best to shield Noah McGahey and half-brother, Austin, 15, who had tagged along on the Florida road trip, from the horror. …

Family members remained in a state of shock, over how something so well intentioned as a baseball trip could turn out so numbing. McGahey left behind his wife of 12 years, Ann Hightower, and three sons, including Dustin McGahey, 17.

“It hasn’t hit them yet,” said Jeff McGahey, 38, the man’s brother.

The children who McGahey tried to save are all right. They found shelter on a  sand bar.

How bullying can happen: mass parental indifference

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You don’t have to be a parent who explicitly encourages your child’s bullying behavior, or knows of it and doesn’t discourage it, for such abuse to happen at school. Sometimes, all it takes is good people doing nothing.

Such as at East Middle School in Biscoe, N.C., where 12 students face juvenile charges for sexually hazing and bullying 13 younger members of the school baseball and soccer teams. Fox 8 News in Greensboro is reporting the efforts the school is making to get counseling for the victims and institute new anti-bullying programs.

But the school already tried reaching out to parents three months beforehand — and their efforts were met with a collective shoulder-shrug.

From Fox 8:

Officials at East Middle School held a poorly attended bullying awareness and prevention program for parents just three months before a dozen students face assault and sexual battery charges in connection with a sports team hazing ritual.

Attendance records show six parents attended the program, which was held in January.

I can’t get too haughty about how East Middle School parents must be horrible and ignorant, because my son’s junior high hosted a cyberbullying session for parents, complete with a speaker from Vermont whose son committed suicide after a long stretch of being on the receiving end of such activity. About 150 chairs were set up in the school gym. Counting me, seven parents showed up.

Of course, some parents don’t show because they’re working, or they can’t get child care. But, really, these pitiful numbers speak — to me, anyway — about how much parents want to put their heads in the sand about bullying and hazing. They figure if their kid isn’t a bully, or a victim, who cares? Or, more than that, they could never imagine their child in either position, so why bother? Or, worse yet, they chalk up such behavior as a normal part of growing up, so kids should just suck it up and tough it out — just like they did.

I don’t think the schools — or myself — are asking for parents to be rabid anti-bullying activists. It would be nice, though, if they would acknowledge that the behavior exists, and it’s not a good thing.

Texas City Little League suffers epidemic of unhinged coaches

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Junior, Senior & Big League Baseball

Image via Wikipedia

In the northern climes in which I live, youth baseball games have not yet started. Meanwhile, in warmer climes, adults are already infecting their local fields with craziness, and none more than in Texas City, Texas.

The Little League in Texas City has suspended two coaches in three weeks, and might suspend a third as early as tonight. All three of them have been arrested, as well, for losing their shit in the presence of the way-before-preteen set.

The latest incident was April 8, and involved one Jeremy Brian Delgado, whom the Galveston Daily News identified with three names as if he was the guy who shot John Lennon. Instead, Delgado shot, as the newspaper said, “F-bombs,” being arrested on a misdemeanor disorderly conduct charge for getting a little too passionate in his defense of a player. From the Galveston County Daily News:

A parent who said he was upset about how a coach handled his son made the allegation, [Texas City police Capt.] Brian Goetschius said.

The father of the child who was yelled at asked The Daily News not to reveal his name for fear of reprisal against his son. The game involved 9- and 10-year-old boys.

The father said his son was on the field but not doing anything out of the ordinary during a bases-loaded ground out to shortstop that ended an inning.

He said he approached Delgado, asking why another coach yelled at his son.

Delgado, one of two assistants, then had words with the head coach on his team, in support of the boy who was yelled at, Goetschius said.

Delgado is accused of yelling bad language at the coach and assistant coach as the argument escalated, Goetschius said. He also is accused of using the same sort of language toward an umpire when he was ejected.

A Texas City police officer saw the commotion and heard some language before arresting Delgado, Goetschius said.

Actually, if police arrested every parent who went on a swearing binge at a youth baseball game, there would be 25 adults to a lockup cell every game night. I’m not defending Delgado’s choice of “some language,” but I’ll say that parents should consider themselves lucky they don’t have the Texas City police monitoring their public profanity. Then again, as the Houston Press points out, cops in Galveston County are fairly quick to arrest and prosecute the foul-mouthed.

If the Texas City Little League decides to bounce Delgado [APRIL 16 UPDATE: the league suspended Delgado for the remainder of the season], he’ll have company in its virtual penalty box. Coaches Jose Luis Duran and Johnathan T. Kimsey got sent there after a March 27 brawl that started after one coach got upset by a trick play used in a game involving 7- and 8-year-olds. Wait, a trick play in a 7- and 8-year-old game? I hope the coach who pulled that one is proud that he could outsmart a first-grader.

The Galveston County Daily News didn’t identify who called the trick play, but it did note the argument ended with a brawl, and disorderly conduct charges for Duran and Kimsey. A third coach in the brawl got his suspension lifted when he successfully argued his role was limited to being choked into unconsciousness.

The first game of the 6- and 7-year-old baseball team I’m managing doesn’t have its first game until April 27. Certainly, I have my work cut out to catch up to the pace set by the coaches in Texas City.

Written by rkcookjr

April 15, 2010 at 6:21 pm

That's not bullying! It's tradition!

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A big part of the problem in fighting bullying and hazing in schools, and on their sports teams, is that no one in authority can seem to agree on what bullying and hazing is. To you, mean cheerleaders stuffing another girl in a locker against her will is probably bullying. But to, say, a principal, it can be written off as a school tradition.

For example, take this incident at Elm Grove (La.) Middle School, near Shreveport.

A sixth-grade girl, Abigail Herring, said that during cheerleader tryouts, she was shoved into a locker, had trash thrown at her, and then had the door shut on her while another cheerleader stood guard for 20 minutes. Sounds a lot like bullying, right? Or hazing? Or something you probably would lose your shit over if you heard it happened to your kid? (For example, if you’re Abigail Herring’s mom, losing your shit enough to run to a local TV station so your daughter could tell her story.)

But to principal Bobby Marlow and his crack investigative team at Elm Grove Middle School, what happened to Abigail Herring was not bullying. From KSLA-TV in Shreveport:

He told us the school’s resource officer completed a thorough investigation, “and what bullying would be is when somebody is repeatedly affected in a negative way by someone.”

Marlow described what happened to Abigail Herring as an unofficial tradition he knew nothing about.  “Evidently, it had gone on for several years where a girl would get in a locker for good luck on the tryouts.”

So let’s see if I get Marlow straight. If we were in school together, and I shoved a broomstick up his ass once, that’s not bullying, because I wouldn’t be repeatedly affecting him in a negative way, right? Now, if I did it twice, that’s wrong. But once, OK.

And, if shoving a broomstick up someone’s ass was an “unofficial tradition” for “good luck,” I’m even more off the hook, right? “Hey, meat! Bend over for good luck! It’s an unofficial tradition! That we’ll only do once!”

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Why do we stuff you in a locker? Tradition!

To be fair to Marlow, plenty of parents, administrators and prosecutors somehow excuse bullying behavior they would never tolerate otherwise as long as it involves kids and sports. It’s this kind of twisting of logic that leads many of us to the conclusion that  waterboarding isn’t torture, at least when our side is doing it.

And in these cases of bullying and hazing involving kids in sports, the bullying is coming from people who are supposed to be part of the same team! On what planet can you, say, interview for a job and be told that before you can be part of the company, you have to participate in some “unofficial tradition” that involves your abject humiliation? You know, to prove yourself worthy. One of us.

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Gobble, gobble, we accept her.

For the record, Marlow says the “unofficial tradition” of stuffing prospective cheerleaders in a locker is over. At least that tradition. Oh, and apparently the good-luck charm didn’t work, because Abigail didn’t make the squad.

'Game On' by Tom Farrey: The one youth sports book you should read

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game-on-how-the-pressure-to-win-at-all-costs-endangers-youth-sports-and-what-parents-can-do-about-itI just finished reading the paperback version of “Game On,” by ESPN writer Tom Farrey. I have a sense of relief, in that Farrey, through extensive reporting, confirms many of the biases I had about American youth sports when I started this blog in December 2008, after the hardcover release of Farrey’s book. Namely:

1. That there is too much of an early emphasis on competition, instead of learning — and even more important — enjoying a game.

2. That there is a youth sports-industrial complex that runs from the youth leagues to the colleges and professional leagues they stock that send the message to worried parents that if you don’t pay big in time and money, your child will never even sniff sporting success past, oh, age 6.

3. That this youth sports-industrial complex has created a youth sports world that rapidly tosses aside any family who doesn’t have the means to participate, or has a child who blooms late physically or don’t specialize in a sport by the time the first baby tooth is lost.

4. That the craziness — the yelling at refs, the coaching from the sidelines, the incredible money spent, the amount of time devoted — you see from youth sports parents often is a reasoned, conservative, expected, fostered result of points No. 1, 2, and 3, because parents, trying to do their job in advocating for the best interests of their children, have to resort to extreme means if they want their children to match even the limited athletic success they might have had in their generation.

5. That this system, for the most part, satisfies no one — it leaves millions of kids tossed aside with no options for even casual physical activity or team play, it squeezes out otherwise talented kids who can’t pay the cost of admission, and it doesn’t even guarantee the creation of a deep bench of elite-level athletes.

Farrey, backed by ESPN’s relatively deep pockets, was able to travel the globe to unlock the story of how American youth sports got to where they are. (While I tweaked columnist Rick Reilly for calling out USA Today — and not his own employer — for ESPN’s own kiddie-pornish promotion of youth sports, the self-proclaimed Worldwide Leader has given Farrey and other reporters the resources to do some great investigative work in this world and otherwise. That’s part of the yin-yang of being a big sports journalism organization and an even bigger sports promoter.)

My favorite part about Farrey’s book isn’t a specific part. It’s his whole approach. Farrey, like many of us who trade in this space, has his personal reasons for his interest in youth sports. Namely, the persons you’ve spawned who play them. (I have four personal reasons; Farrey has three.) But Farrey doesn’t make the book about him and his worry for his children. Instead, by reporting out the history and evolution (or de-evolution) of youth sports, Farrey makes “Game On” about the future of the country, not the future of his kids, or just kids in general.

Farrey ends with some of his own ideas of reforming youth sports, but I’ll get into those at a later date. I’ll bring them up later, when I finish a post I’m planning about why school sports is destined to die.

No gun sponsorship allowed for N.J. youth baseball team

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Apparently the only arms the South Orange-Maplewood Baseball League wants referenced on its fields are those attached to the players. From My Fox New York:

TheInstructorA Maplewood, New Jersey man is upset that a Little League baseball league has rejected his business as a team sponsor.

Matthew Carmel’s (right) son played in the South Orange-Maplewood Baseball League last year and he wanted to sponsor a team in the coming season. A sponsorship costs $300.

The league committee rejected his offer.  Carmel thinks that it is because his business happens to be a gun store called Constitution Arms. [The league did not give an official reason for denying his sponsorship.]

Carmel says, “It is fairly clear that someone has a problem with firearms.”

Mao was wrong. Youth sports sponsorship power does not come from the barrel of a gun.

Written by rkcookjr

March 5, 2010 at 10:58 am