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Little League manager, parent had fight

August 05, 2010|By ANDREW SCHOTZ

A fistfight between a manager and a parent marred the Halfway Little League 11-12 all-star team's playoff run in Salisbury, Md., last week.

The confrontation happened the night of July 27, after the Halfway team lost for the first time, following two wins.

In a police report, the two combatants -- manager Les Martin and parent Paul David Downes -- accused each other of being the instigator.

Whatever happened, Martin left the team. Mike Gooden stepped in as manager for Halfway's final two games, including a July 29 championship-round loss that eliminated the team.

Asked about the change on July 28, before details about the fight were out in the open, Gooden said, "I just know there were some family things Les had to take care of, and I'll just leave it at that."

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A Salisbury police report says an officer responded to Americas Best Value Inn on July 27 shortly before midnight because of a reported assault.

Downes told the officer his son was on the Halfway team and "he was not happy that they lost," according to the report.

In the report, Downes says Martin "came outside where Downes was smoking and punched him in the face and they began to fight."

Martin's brief account in the report is different. He told the officer "he and Downes did have a mutual fight because Downes got in his face and pushed him," the report says.

The only other account in the report is from Jill Toms, another team parent.

Toms said, "Downes was outside the bar area of the hotel smoking and Martin went outside and told Downes to stop talking about him behind his back," according to the report. "...Downes got up and 'got into Martin's face,' started cursing at him and then pushed Martin and that is when Martin and Downes began to fight."

Reached Tuesday evening, Downes said a group of parents traveling with the team was in the hotel bar, unhappy with decisions Martin made, such as how he used pitchers.

Downes said he and Martin disagreed throughout the season, but he tried to make amends in Salisbury and didn't participate in the parents' criticism the night of the fight.

When he went outside to smoke a cigarette, Martin confronted him, Downes said.

He said Martin was "extremely upset" and swore at him, accusing Downes of talking about Martin behind his back.

The men yelled at each other and Martin punched Downes in the head once, then a second time, Downes said.

Downes said he retaliated by punching Martin once. They grabbed each other, then Martin shoved Downes, who fell back, hitting his head on bricks, Downes said.

Downes said he had a cut above his eye and an ambulance took him to a hospital, where he received 17 stitches.

The police report says Martin had a black left eye after the fight.

Martin didn't return five messages left for him at two phone numbers Tuesday and Wednesday seeking his side of the story.

The police officer told both men they could go to a court commissioner to file charges, the report says.

Downes said he considered it, but decided not to when he learned the next morning that Martin had left the team.

Gooden, Halfway Little League President Jack Jenkins and Charles Jakoby, the league's vice president for major leagues, didn't return phone messages Wednesday.

Larry Hammond, the Little League administrator for Maryland's District 1, said Tuesday that he heard something happened, but not about the fight or that police were involved.

After hearing from a reporter about the allegations in the police report, Hammond said, "It should not happen. Everything we do, we do for the kids, not the adults. If this did happen, it's a shame."

Downes said he wishes the fight didn't happen.

"That's my one regret," he said, "that I didn't walk away from it."

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