Police respond to disturbance after Little League game in Sharpsburg

August 04, 2011|By ANDREW SCHOTZ |

SHARPSBURG — Police were called to Sharpsburg Tuesday night because of a confrontation among parents and officials after a game between two 7-and-8-year-old Little League teams.

Exactly what happened and why aren't clear, but people who were there  described a series of ugly moments that included:

  • Racial and gay slurs directed at players.
  • A slew of profanity, particularly by people trying to disperse an angry crowd of parents and league officials.
  • A mother who was allegedly grabbed and pushed against a fence, causing an arm injury she had examined at the hospital.

But officials and parents who attended the game between Hagerstown's West End Little League and Sharpsburg Little League provided different accounts of the incident.

What's certain is that the scene started to get out of control, the police were called and a Maryland state trooper showed up.

And three other law-enforcement agencies — Boonsboro police, the Washington County Sheriff's Office and Maryland Natural Resources Police — were also dispatched to the ball field for backup.

Boonsboro police Officer Shawn Faith, who also responded, said the initial report was for a 50-person fight. When Faith and another Boonsboro officer arrived, he said things had cooled down, so they let the trooper handle the call.

Washington County Sheriff Douglas W. Mullendore said authorities received a call at about 8:15 p.m. that roughly 20 people were involved in a disturbance at the Little League field.

By all accounts, the West End group had left the field by the time police arrived.

It's not clear if a police report was filed because the responding trooper couldn't be reached for comment Wednesday or Thursday.

Some tension appears to have grown out of West End skepticism about getting a fair game at Sharpsburg. West End Manager Stevie Dillinger and three West End parents and grandparents said they thought the umpires skewed calls toward the home team.

G.E. Ingram, the Sharpsburg league president, who managed Sharpsburg's team on Tuesday, said the umpires who worked the game were qualified and have officiated other games and tournaments.

Sharpsburg won 13-9 to advance in the tournament, eliminating the West End team.

Nichole Valentine, the mother of a West End player, said that after the game, she was unhappy about the officiating and told a West End parent she wanted to find Sharpsburg's president and complain.

She said she ended up in a confrontation with a Sharpsburg parent who overheard her comment. As that unfolded, Valentine alleged that a man who umpired a previous game firmly grabbed and bruised her left arm, shoved her into a fence and used a profanity in ordering her to leave the ballpark.

She said her fiance stepped in, along with other Sharpsburg men. One man pushed her three or four times, trying to force her to leave, according to Valentine.

As she, her son and fiance tried to get in their vehicle, about nine men were circled around them, screaming at them, she said.

Millie Myers, the grandmother of a West End player, said she saw a man approach her daughter and grandson, swinging his arms and screaming at the West End group to leave.

Myers said she stepped up with her hands raised and told the man to stop. When her hands landed on the man's chest, he swore at her and pushed her, she said.

Heated argument

On Wednesday, when asked about the incident, Ingram initially said it was just a series of arguments — common when people blame umpires for a loss — and not worth a news story.

"It was just people shouting back and forth," Ingram said.

The police were called only as a precaution because children were around, he said.

But, during a second interview, he acknowledged that things got more heated.

He said West End parents got out of hand and one threatened to "slash" a 13-year-old child who tried to intervene. Ingram said he was warned earlier in the tournament that West End had some problem parents.

Dillinger, Valentine and Melody Paul, another West End parent, each reported hearing at least one slur directed at the West End team after the game.

Valentine said one person in the crowd used a derogatory term for homosexuals to describe West End's players.

Dillinger said he heard someone tell the West End team to "go back to the ghetto."

Paul said she heard a racial insult directed at the team, which has some black players.

But Ingram said he was in the thick of things during and after the game, and the allegations about the insults can't be true.

Anyone making a racial or gay slur would have been kicked out of the ballpark.

As president of the league, "I wouldn't stand for it," Ingram said.

The Sharpsburg Little League Code of Conduct, posted at the league's website, requires players, parents, coaches and managers to be respectful and good sports and not to use foul language.


Staff Writer Dan Dearth contributed to this story

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