Apparently, the calming, pristine setting at Blue Wahoos Stadium in Pensacola, Fla. didn’t work.
Thursday’s consolation game in the Tate Aggie Classic ended in the bottom of the sixth inning when a bench-clearing brawl put quite a damper on what was otherwise a great ballgame.
The contest between Norman North (Okla.) and Jacksonville’s Arlington Country Day was ruled a double forfeit after players from both teams participated in a brawl that lasted a little longer than a minute.
It all transpired in the bottom of the sixth inning with Norman North at the plate, leading by a 2-1 margin. With the bases loaded, Arlington Country Day pitcher Jonathan Rodriguez uncorked a wild pitch back to the screen.
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Catcher Brian Navarreto gave chase and tossed the ball back to Rodriguez to attempt to get a sliding D.J. Gasso at the plate. Gasso easily beat the throw, but Rodriguez still applied a late tag, then appeared to slap Gasso in the face with his other hand, prompting home plate umpire Jason Young to immediately eject Rodriguez from the game.
While that was happening, Navarreto walked up to Gasso and punched him in the face, setting off the brawl. Players from both teams spilled onto the field, and the melee — which included several punches thrown — ensued.
“You walk that line in athletics where you try to teach your kids to fight and be tough, but yet still play under control,” Norman North coach Brian Aylor said. “When the play at the plate occurred, and their guy threw the punch and hits our guy, then our guy has the responsibility to defend himself, and it just goes from there.
“It gets out of control in a hurry. The adults did the best they could to control the atmosphere and I think they made the right decision of calling the game.”
The fracas ruined what was a great game up until that point. Norman North pushed across two runs in the first inning and then held onto the two-run lead until Country Day got a run in the fourth inning.
It was in the fourth inning when Arlington Country Day coach Ron Dickerson said he had reached his limit with racial slurs slanted toward his players, many of which are of Dominican heritage.
Dickerson — contacted hours after the game by cell phone as the team was returning to Jacksonville — said he approached Young about his feelings. The umpire then warned the Norman North dugout, from which, Dickerson said, he was greeted with, ‘Whiny. Whiny. You’re too big of a black guy to whine like that.’ ”
“But this isn’t about me,” Dickerson said. “I wanted safety for both teams. These kids have futures and a long season ahead of them. But there’s also a respect for the game you must have ... and I guarantee no one can say we said anything toward them.
“The racism has to stop. This can’t keep going on. The game is baseball, not these antics. In the fourth inning, I would have pulled my team if I had known it was going to end like this.”
The boiling point came in the bottom of the sixth when the play at the plate set off the fight.
“It was just a good, competitive game and I don’t know one thing about that team, that coach or their history,” Aylor said. “I know we’ve never in our history had a fight, and I’ve been at this school for nine years. It’s the first time it’s ever occurred. Obviously, for it to get to that point, something had to happen pretty dramatic to cause our kids to go over that line.
“When a kid gets sucker-punched in the face, you just can’t tell the kid to sit there and take it. It is what it is. We’ll talk about it as a team in-house and try to regroup and get back to Oklahoma.”
“We’re not proud we got in brawl. Not at all,” Dickerson said. “We’ll use it as a life lesson and understand that there are consequences for your actions. I don’t believe in violence, but I do believe you have to protect yourself. People saying ‘Spics’ and ‘Spic lovers’ ... that’s not a good situation. That doesn’t belong in the game of baseball, and neither does how this particular game ended.”