USABL President and CEO Brian Delahant later told NJ.com that the umpire is recovering from his injuries and recently attended a game featuring the team that played against the one whose the coach had attacked him. The referee’s intention with this visit, Delahant said, was to show that he was feeling better and to cheer up the “kids”. [who] were pretty shaken up” by the episode.
“The support from the baseball community has been overwhelmingly positive since this happened,” Delahant told The Washington Post on Wednesday via email. “Coaches and organizations offered to donate money and the kids sent homemade recovery cards to the referee. If there is anything positive about this whole situation, it is that awareness has been raised to a very serious matter and that we all need to be better if we are to continue watching our children play ball.
The unidentified coach worked with a team representing New York Prospects, a Staten Island-based organization. New York Prospects president Frank Cambria apologized in a social media post last week and said he took “immediate action” against the coach.
“When I received the news, it made my stomach turn and made me wonder why anyone would do such a thing,” Cambria wrote. “There is never, ever, ever an excuse for punching a referee or any other human being at a sports venue, especially involving children.”
Cambria went on to write that he was troubled that some of the families at the game continued to complain about the referee’s calls after he was attacked. This was consistent with the account of the incident offered by the USABL, which said on Facebook: “Even though the police and paramedics were providing medical attention to the referee, other parents on the same team were heard shouting swearing at the referee and saying things like, ‘He deserved it.’ ”
After claiming in his email on Wednesday that “the environment for youth sports has become toxic”, Delahant wrote: “Part of the problem is that people will read this and think it doesn’t apply to them. They’ll say, ‘I would never hit a referee.’ While I hope that’s true, many still think they have the right to yell at a referee for 2 hours straight Tell them how horrible they are or that they’re blind and follow them to in the parking lot after the game despite the fact that if they did the same in a restaurant or supermarket they would be arrested.
“This mentality needs to change. We need to teach our children that they will not win every game they play and how to lose by respecting both their opponents and the match officials.
According to NJ.com, authorities in Branchburg, NJ, where the game took place, are investigating the incident.
Across the country, youth sports leagues are facing shortages of playing officials. That’s partly attributable to the coronavirus pandemic, but some observers also point to an atmosphere of hostility.
At a youth softball game in Mississippi in April, a referee was allegedly attacked by a parent, who was arrested for assault. The referee shared an image of his black eye online and wrote: “Next time you go to a tournament and you only have one referee on the court…that’s why.”
“When the day comes where your child can’t play a game of ball,” added referee Kristi Moore, “because there are no more officials to call it… THAT. AND WHY.”
“Veterans are giving up in droves. They’re fed up,” Moore, who oversees fast softball umpires for Mississippi State, told The Associated Press. “When we’re working to sign new people, train them, get them out on the pitch, they’re three or four games away when somebody gives them a good rant or an invite to get beat up. They’re like: “You know what? I’ll go cut the grass on the weekends.”
New York Prospects officials could not be reached for comment on Wednesday. Cambria said in his message last week that he sent a message of “zero tolerance” to members of his organization and that he expects them to be “on their best behavior and respect officials, host sites and people in general”.
“When did winning a plastic trophy become more important than the welfare of another human being?” he wrote. “My prayers for a speedy recovery go out to this referee and all the officials who have been abused by parents who just don’t understand.
“It’s a children’s game that’s supposed to create good memories, not give them nightmares.”