Archive for Thursday, June 15, 2006

Unruly parents banned from Basehor tourneys

June 15, 2006

The final outcome of a verbal altercation between angry youth baseball parents and an umpire at Field of Dreams in late May is still murky, but one thing is clear: the team at the center of the controversy won't be playing in Basehor any time soon.

Tournament organizer Jeremy McDowell said that the Kansas City Wildcats 12-and-under baseball team won't be allowed to play in any tournament he hosts because of the actions of some of its parents and coaches on May 14.

On that day, McDowell had to call police to disperse a group which had berated and threatened an umpire until he called the game and took shelter in the concessions stand.

McDowell runs most of the youth sports tournaments in Basehor through his company, Independent Tournaments. He also organized the JB Stinnett Memorial Basketball Tournament earlier this year, which raised $2,300 for Stinnett's family.

McDowell, along with one of the umpires who worked the May 14 game between the Wildcats and Cardinals, reported the incident to the United States Specialty Sports Association, the league in which the Wildcats compete. The two sent e-mails to Wally Fortuna, the USSSA's baseball director for the state of Kansas, urging him to take further action.

According to their accounts, some of the parents and coaches were shouting a number of profanities and would have physically attacked the home plate umpire if they had not be restrained by others in the crowd. McDowell said it was "by far the worst incident I've witnessed" in six years of running tournaments.

As of last week, though, Fortuna said he was still trying to get to the bottom of what happened at Field of Dreams and that he hadn't considered what action, if any, USSSA should take. He said he had gotten a number of e-mails about the incident, including many from Wildcats parents who said it had been "blown out of proportion."

"As state director I'm just trying to get as many facts as I can," Fortuna said.

Fortuna said possible punishments for the team could range anywhere from probation to a lifetime ban from the USSSA. But he added that he was reluctant to lay down any punishment against the team as a whole, since that would mostly damage the players, who were not the source of the problems.

"I would much rather do something to affect a few parents than a bunch of 12-year-old kids," he said.

Fortuna was careful to point out that he was unsure of just how extreme the actions of the Wildcats supporters were and that he needed more time to gather information. But McDowell said the actions he witnessed that day were so inappropriate that he had no qualms about banning the team from his tournaments, even if it meant losing some registration fees.

"The day I'm driven by money and not by ethics is the day I should get out of this business," McDowell said.

He added that he might actually lose registration money if he had the team back because he had heard from other coaches who said they wouldn't enter their teams in tournaments with the Wildcats because they didn't want their players exposed to the language Wildcats fans used.

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