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Amateur baseball goes soap opera

While the scenic backdrops of local baseball fields could pass for landscape paintings, the behavior at some recent games has been less than lovely. Bob Williams/FOCUS

The next scheduled game of the week is a testy rematch of the Perham Pirates and Detroit Lakes Angels at Washington Park Wednesday evening, July 11 in Hi-10 league action.

Words have recently been exchanged between the teams both at the last meeting, an 11-inning victory by Detroit Lakes in Perham Sunday, July 1, and online.

Public threats of a bean ball fest with specific players named made their way around the Internet since the July 1 game.

The teams had a rumble near home plate at their last game and the spurn of baseball etiquette is bound to stir the pot for Wednesday's rematch.

It is one thing to throw at a guy. It is quite another to announce it publicly. More than one player could be in for a plunking of his own.

Player behavior at baseball games around the area has been less than polite this summer spilling out of the dugouts and affecting the umpires.

The home plate umpire at Sunday's game between the Midway Snurdbirds and Nimrod Gnats got in on the action.

Brad Lusti fanned the final two Gnats' batters to end the game. Both batters went down looking at called third strikes on full counts.

Even the remedial baseball player knows in that situation if the ball is close he should be swinging. There should be no thought to the contrary.

It was hard to feel any sympathy watching players in a game where the object is to swing the bat go down begging to be allowed a free pass - even more annoying for the umpire.

Umpires work a journeyman's schedule playing a role that few people like and many love to ridicule.

The boys in blue are typically the subject of a number of audible groans from the crowd, as was the case in Midway on a scorching Sunday.

A peanut gallery armed with beer coolers and lawn chairs down the right field line at Matt Leritz Field did their best to lighten the mood with witty play-by-play and annoyed more than one player, and it did not matter if it was a hometown Snurdbird or road Gnat, with a litany of insults.

Imagine grounding out to first base and on the way back to the dugout getting pumped with, "It might be time to hang it up," bellowed from the crowd of barley pop swillers.

Now imagine being the umpire dealing with the whole scene.

Some guy on the back of a tailgate is questioning calls. He cannot even see the plate. The backside of a left-handed batter blocks his view.

The absurdities of some fan behavior, when logically examined, are borderline endless. But a Sunday on a tailgate with a cooler full of brews is not a place for pure logic.

As an impartial third-party, it was humorous to witness, but such antics are certainly going to have an effect on the stress already on the field.

Playing or watching baseball is supposed to be fun and fans have a right to bellow if they want, whether they were charged admission or not.

Fans have been yelling the likes of, "throw the bum out!" since the game was invented.

That is part of what makes amateur baseball so fun to watch and games are more fun to play and report upon when there is an active crowd involved.

I was amazed at the number of cars parked at the intersection at Becker County Highway 47 and 145th street that is Midway.

The game needs more public support even if it is from bellowing benchwarmers on the other side of the fence.

What the game needs less of are the tantrums on the field.

Reports of public displays of dissention amongst local team members and audible cursing on the field swirled around the rumor mill Sunday all the way over in Midway.

Another local team was forced to change head coaches midway through the season and have been the subject of multiple online message board chats regarding if they have enough players for games and the scheduling issues that come along with potential forfeits.

These issues were discussed in a less than positive manner prompting an online rebuke from the League president.

The Highway 10 Save a Life Initiative VFW tournament was not without its own spectacles.

Park Center, who won the tournament, was the subject of umpire warnings and tales of their behavior, including a report of over 10 audible curses in one game, ran from Perham to New York Mills over the weekend.

Players' attitudes stretched off the field to the people kind enough to volunteer their own time to make sure hot dogs were on the concession menu.

For a tournament with the best of intentions to raise awareness about teen suicide, it was like some of the participants paid no heed to the real reason they were there, despite the sobering reminders read over the public address system between innings.

I have seen better behavior at a beer league softball game where players and fans are all schnockered.

It was not all Park Center either at the SALI tournament.

"We teach our kids to respect the game," Park Center Head Coach John Farrell said. "If something like this happens, I take care of it right away."

Farrell disputes the claims of other tournament coaches and fans about his teams's behavior, citing a number of positive instances he saw at the tournament, including being thanked by an umpiring crew for the way he handled a disputable call.

One of our area teams joined the fray.

In a twist of irony in a game against Park Center, after being called out at third base on an arguable call to end the game, a New York Mills player was warned sternly by the field umpire to shut his trap after an outburst of a one-word expletive having to do with the droppings of a bull.

The remark could be heard throughout Russ Jacobson Field.

Having personally heard multiple warnings about the Park Center team, they gave no showing of the accusations from earlier in the tournament.

They played solid baseball and thumped an Eagles team that is not accustomed to losing.

Regardless, high drama and soap opera antics have run amok on the baseball diamonds around the region from players of all ages.

Maybe they are just crazy from the heat.

Writer's note: This piece has been edited multiple times due to a a large number of complaints from those portrayed in it. If I was to print every rebuttal I've heard, the reader would think nothing happened at all and every participant was perfect.

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Robert Williams

Sports Editor at the Detroit Lakes Tribune. Williams worked prior as the Sports Editor in Perham for the Focus, a Forum Communications newspaper, from 2010-14. 

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