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Youth baseball brings out Gurnee cops
By Bob Susnjara | Daily Herald Staff

Michael Jacobs


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Published: 7/22/2010 11:35 AM | Updated: 7/22/2010 5:06 PM

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Baseball's latest black eye didn't come from a frustrated major league pitcher or batter hit at the plate, but rather on a suburban diamond in a game with teenage players.

Three Gurnee police officers were sent to restore order at a youth baseball league game last weekend as a result of scuffling players and testy parents, officials said.

And while the kids on the field were the ones in the fight, experts say that parents - and the pros - might ultimately be the ones to blame.

No arrests were made following the incident at the American Legion baseball diamond at 749 N. Milwaukee Ave., just south of Grand Avenue, Gurnee police Cmdr. Jay Patrick said. Patrick said police were summoned to the American Legion field at 4:49 p.m. Saturday. He said a police dispatcher was informed parents were fighting over a bad call at home plate.

Village Trustee Michael Jacobs, president of Gurnee Youth Baseball, credited police with diffusing a potentially volatile situation. He said the incident involved two Colt League teams with boys 15 to 18 years old.

Jacobs, who mentioned the fracas at Monday night's Gurnee village board meeting and elaborated on it afterward, said the trouble began when a player trying to score the winning run couldn't get past the catcher who was blocking home plate.

Frustrated by not being able to reach the plate on multiple attempts, Jacobs said, the runner started punching the catcher. He said the catcher then tried to place the runner in a headlock and hit back.

It's not clear where the baseball was during the activity at home plate. Official baseball rules state a catcher, without possession of the ball, has no right to block the pathway of the runner attempting to score.

Moreover, the baseline belongs to the runner and the catcher should be there only when fielding a ball or when he already has it in hand.

Jacobs, a Cook County prosecutor, said it seemed the incident was winding down after some players left the bench and then returned. He said the umpires didn't get involved.

"But the parents started screaming at each other," Jacobs said.

Patrick said the players on both sides hugged as the three cops left the field. The teams were not named.

"It could have really gone south," Jacobs said. "But when (police) got there, everybody started to calm down quite a bit."

Jacobs said Gurnee Youth Baseball officials were expected to meet with the players involved in the incident. He said the league has a disciplinary code that calls for penalties ranging from a one-game suspension to expulsion.

John Engh, chief operating officer of the National Alliance for Youth Sports, said what happened in Gurnee could be attributed to young athletes being influenced by frequent displays of poor sportsmanship and out-of-control behavior in professional leagues and colleges.

"These types of behaviors have a greater chance of surfacing in youth sports when coaches and parents fail to stress the importance of being a good sport and aren't models of it at all times themselves," Engh said.