Archive for Thursday, May 25, 2006

Tournament organizer says reprimands will be issued

May 25, 2006

Police were called to Basehor's Field of Dreams 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 the home plate, the umpire was faced with several angry protesters, including the Wilcats' third base coach, who ran at him screaming obscenities.

When that coach was thrown out of the game, more tempers escalated and the ump had to call the game out of fear for his safety. He then 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 any arrests were made.

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

According to McDowell, more youth baseball and softball teams will be competing in Kansas than in any other state this weekend. 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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