Thumbs Downs to this coaching clown

July 31, 2005|By Mark Keller

There has to be a special place in the afterlife for people like Mark Downs Jr.

On Thursday, Downs was ordered to stand trial for allegedly promising to pay a player on his T-ball team $25 to hurt a mentally disabled teammate.

Keith Reese testified at a preliminary hearing that Downs made the offer before a playoff game in late June.

(OK, the fact that this league, which is near Pittsburgh, is having T-ball playoffs is another issue all together. How do you have playoffs for a game in which you're not even supposed to be keeping score? But I digress.)

Reese was sent to warm up before the game with his mentally disabled teammate, Harry Bowers. Reese's first throw hit Bowers in the groin.


Apparently, in Downs' mind, that shot wasn't enough to earn the payoff. He told Reese to hit Bowers harder. And Reese did, this time in the ear.

Downs will be arraigned on two counts of criminal solicitation to commit aggravated assault and one count each of corruption of minors, criminal conspiracy and recklessly endangering another person.

Yeah, I'd say so.

Reese's father testified that the coach admitted after the game that he "did something ignorant," and went on to tell of his offer.

Downs' attorney denied the allegations, saying instead that the $25 comment probably referred to a previous game, when the coach jokingly told his team he'd offer $25 to "anybody who can line drive the ref with the ball" when he was cautioned by the umpire.

Oh, well, in that case ...

It's difficult at first to excuse Reese for his part in Downs' scheme. But parents encourage their kids to listen to their coaches and do what they ask them to do. In most cases, that's the best advice we can give our children.

And most 8-year-olds would be on top of the world with $25 in their pocket, regardless of what they had to do to get it. Even though Reese might have known what he was doing was wrong, to quote Glenn Frey, "It's the lure of easy money, it's got a very strong appeal."

Downs took advantage of the trust of a young boy, put that trust to the test by asking him to do something unthinkable and then, on top of it all, he stiffed the kid who did his dirty work.

That's right. Stiffed him. Downs never paid up.

And all of this over a T-ball game.

I guess it's a good thing Downs didn't pay up after all. Perhaps he can go out and buy himself some class.

Or a clue.

Mark Keller is sports editor of The Herald-Mail. His column appears on Sundays. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 2332, or by e-mail at

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