Archive for Thursday, June 8, 2006

Parental misbehavior halts game in Basehor

June 8, 2006

Police were called to Basehor's Field of Dreams baseball and softball complex on May 14 after a group of unruly parents grew hostile toward a Little League baseball umpire.

During a game between the Wildcats and Cardinals - two Kansas City-area 12-and-under teams - a base runner collided with the catcher in a play at the plate. After he called the runner out home, the umpire was faced with several angry protesters, including the Wildcats' third base coach, who ran at him screaming obscenities.

When that coach was ejected from the game, more tempers escalated and the ump had to call the game out of fear for his safety. He retreated to the concession stand in the middle of the complex, where other umpires stood guard until police arrived. It was not clear whether any citations were issued or arrests were made.

The incident occurred May 14, but finally made its way onto Kansas City area sports radio programs last week.

The organizer of the tournament in which the Cardinals and Wildcats were playing, Jeremy McDowell, said the actions of some parents and coaches that day weren't indicative of the everyday youth sports atmosphere, adding that those involved would be reprimanded. He said he hoped it wouldn't erase all the good things tournaments had brought to the area.

"I've done this for six years and had over 1,000 teams in that complex and nothing ever came close to this," said McDowell, who was there to witness the incident as it unfolded. "I don't want this to be a black mark on youth sports. I've never seen anything like this happen."

Kansas sports complexes, and Field of Dreams in particular, play host to numerous youth sporting events throughoout the year. With many teams coming from out of state, he said youth tournaments were an economic boon to the area, as well as a fun and safe pastime for participants.

But, as the May 14 incident illustrated, the emotions of the parents and coaches involved can sometimes reach dangerous levels. McDowell said he thought the home plate umpire would have been physically attacked had some fans not acted to restrain others. Even after the umpire had called the game and retreated to the concessions stand, the angry Wildcats' parents refused to let up. They insisted that McDowell make the game continue and, when he refused, several began banging on the concession stand windows and doors. Obscenities and verbal threats aimed at the umpire, McDowell and the Cardinals filled the air.

At that point, McDowell asked the concessions employees to call police. Even as policed arrived and the crowd began to disperse, some fans still yelled at McDowell from the parking lot. McDowell said that throughout the incident there were parents rushing their children away from the scene, concerned for their safety, and that some concessions workers were in tears.

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