For those who read my column last week, I spoke about an incident that happened at a Connie Mack baseball game in which the game was called in the seventh inning after players engaged in trash talk, which eventually resulted in coaches and even parents losing their cool.
Another incident occurred when I was covering the Johnston Little League versus Elmwood game in the District I title game.
I was on the other side of the field so I do not know what was said exactly, but there were two occasions in which play had to be stopped by the umpires due to Elmwood fans chirping at the Johnston coaches. The Johnston staff took exception, and although things did not even approach what occurred in the Connie Mack game, but there was a brief moment of, “What the heck are we doing here?”
I think it is time that these leagues and organizations start making hard and fast rules regarding the fan section and what the protocol is when they get unruly. I guess not just the fans, everyone in general.
Although incidents like these occur all the time, they do not typically happen. Because of this, officials and coaches don’t really know how to react in these situations. That makes it even worse … not having a way to regain control of these hectic situations.
I am not familiar with the umpire handbook and maybe this is a subject that I will dig into, but there just never seems to be a system in place to address rowdy fans, coaches or players. Umpires can warn these individuals and have the power to eject them or end games. Sure, that is the ultimate definition of power, but you can’t rely on just being able to chuck people, you need to have checkpoints while these situations escalate.
If you ask me, the quickest way to curb these incidents is by threatening teams in the wins and losses category. If Team A’s fans are causing a ruckus, then they will be the ones that take the loss after a warning or two is issued. In the Connie Mack game, each team was dealt a no contest, despite the Coventry team being the clear agitators and the ones who sent the officials over the edge.
Each coach complained that the kids should not have been punished, but in my eyes, it can be a learning experience for them. If the kids are the ones acting up, then they deserve to have wins taken away. If it is the coaches or parents, then too bad, those are the adults that are supposed to be setting an example. If they fail in that regard, then there are going to be consequences.
I know, I know. I am acting like a no-fun stiff that hates when people have fun. That’s not the case at all.
A few games earlier in the District I race, I covered the Cranston Western 12’s taking on the same Elmwood team in Roger Williams park. Little League game or not, the atmosphere was electric and it was because of the fans.
There was a mob of fans behind home plate, blaring music from speakers, interacting with the batters and home plate ump, having a ball. At first glance I thought it was a bit much, but when I joined the mosh pit to take photos, their enthusiasm was infectious.
There was no swearing, no taunting, just a lot of laughs, jokes, cheers. It was incredible. Many of those fans made the trip to Memorial Park in Johnston, and I guess maybe they took it a little too far this time.
But overall, yes, I do think these issues are unacceptable and just flat-out annoying. It really takes away from the game and I do feel sorry for the kids. Sometimes it gets uncomfortable and I can’t imagine what it feels like seeing your mom or dad getting confronted for their behavior when their only job is to support you and cheer you on.
I think there needs to be a hierarchy of options, avenues for umpires to take prior to just flat out ejecting fans. As everyone knows, there is a nationwide shortage of officials across all sports and it is only getting worse. Much of it is because of these shenanigans.
Appreciate the officials, the players, the sport. Let’s not perpetuate this further.
On a more positive note, we had multiple of our clubs win their districts in the past week. The Cranston East 11’s and juniors won District I, while the aforementioned Johnston 12’s got the job done that night as well.
To be honest, I love this collection of teams. Since I started here in 2018, it has been Cranston Western dominating Division I as well as the Warwick teams.
I am always supporting all of our teams and I really mean that, I love rooting on our Little League teams. However, it has been fun seeing some new faces take home titles.
It was Johnston’s first since 2009 … before the players were even born. East has won in the past few years, but to see two of their teams win is awesome. CWLL had another impressive summer too, let’s not act like they were disappointing. The quality of play this summer is probably the best I have seen since working in Rhode Island.
Now is where we truly see what these teams are made of. That is what I love about the Little League All-Star playoffs, there are layers to it and it is interesting to see this war of attrition.
Winning a district title is tough, winning a state title is very tough and winning a regional title is extraordinarily tough to pull off … that is why only a handful of teams in the country do it every year.
That said, I am excited to see how these next two weeks shake out. Winning the district is a big accomplishment, but winning the state is even greater. What a fun time of year.
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