(This is another one of my posts from "Gather")
This one is from the Jay Leno "What the hell were you thinking?" file. Just when you thought high school kids couldn't get in any more trouble, we have reached near critical mass.
In a recent Georgia High School Association championship game, Stephens County catcher Matt Hill ducked while Cody Martin hit an umpire with a pitch. Their team was losing in the state AAA championship series against Cartersville last Saturday. Hill claims that he was crossed up. Yeah, right... and I'm Anna Nicole Smith.
The Georgia High School Association, known in the state at the GHSA, the governing body of high school sports for all public and some private schools in the state, saw through the lies and fined Stephens County $1,000. They didn't exactly get off with a slap on the wrist. The school's baseball program has been placed on "severe warning status" Wednesday for the incident in question.
In an attempt to defend his players and basically say that "boys will be boys," Stephens County head coach Mark Gosnell said Hill and pitcher Cody Martin denied planning to hit the umpire and said the passed ball was a result of a signaling mix-up on whether the pitch was to be a fastball or a curve. Hell, I played exactly one game behind the plate in high school and even I know when to call for a fastball or curve. Denying that there was a plan to hit the ump is almost like saying that
But GHSA executive director Ralph Swearngin, who watched video of the pitch, wasn't sold.
Swearngin told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, "I made my decision primarily by watching whether the catcher tracked the pitch with his eyes," he said. "In my opinion, he did not. I think that he would have been searching for the ball if it were a matter of being crossed up."
In other words, Swearngin played the role of Pilate, saying that "What I have written, I have written."
Not all disagree with the powers that be. Stephens County principal David Friend said he thought the ruling was fair. "I told [Swearngin] that I thought we deserved it," Friend said. "We had the opportunity to be on a big stage, in a state championship series, and we had several players who didn't represent school way I think they should have. Not just that pitch, but the overall behavior."
I usually don't agree with Swearngin and his denying schools in my hometown to play private schools that are members of the GISA (Georgia Independent Schools Association) in Macon but this time I think he ruled in the best interest of the game.
Friend said he was concerned about his players' excessive arguing with umpires and throwing helmets and gloves in the dugout and one report that a student made an obscene gesture to an official.
In the half inning prior to the umpire being hit, Stephens County shortstop Ethan Martin argued with the home plate umpire and threw his helmet after becoming the ninth straight Stephens batter to strike out. Martin was recently honored as Gatorade's Georgia player of the year. Maybe they need to rethink that honor.
Two batters later, Cody Martin, Ethan's younger brother, threw the pitch that hit the umpire. Hill, the catcher, dropped to his knees and ducked as the ball approached.
As part of the GHSA's penalty, Gosnell and his assistants must complete a sportsmanship education program. "Severe warning status" means that any sportsmanship violations by a coach or player in 2009 will result in more severe penalties, including possible forfeits and being banned from the state playoffs. Think of it as quadruple secret probation that is as secret as secret can be.
Big brother is watching Stephens County. These young men may as well be marked cheaters. They know that ANY slip up on their part could spell doom for their program, not to mention a potentail collegiate and or professional career. The Stephens County baseball program has the sword of Damoclese over their heads. Let's hope the sword doesn't fall on them.