What was turning out to be a well structured tournament with hardly any incidents took a turn for the worst on Monday as teams battled for positions and medals.
The Babe Ruth Caribbean Baseball Championship and Invitational wrapped up on Monday at the Baillou Hills Sporting Complex and the Andre Rodgers Baseball Stadium.
The 12-and-Under (12U) Division was a qualifier for the Cal Ripken Major/70 World Series at Ballparks of America in Branson, Missouri, later this summer, and the invitational 16-and-Under (16U) Division featured a number of quality teams from the region, the United States (US) and as far away as Europe.
Aruba emerged as the champion in both divisions and Puerto Rico was the runner-up both times. There was no bronze medal game in the 12U Division and The Bahamas won the bronze in the 16U Invitational.
It was in the 16U semifinal game between The Bahamas and Puerto Rico in which tensions flared between Team Bahamas Head Coach Greg Burrows Jr. and home plate umpire Edaine Cannister from Curaçao, and spilled over into a confrontation after the game.
According to reports, Burrows questioned an article of clothing worn by the Puerto Rican pitcher under his hat. Cannister said he ruled that the garment was not white and not in violation of the rules of baseball for that particular tournament. He said he allowed the game to continue and after further disruptions in relation to the same issue, he threw Burrows out of the game.
Greg Jr., on the other hand, said that the article of clothing was a clear violation of the rules, and initially the umpire asked the pitcher to remove it but in the following inning, he allowed the game to continue with the pitcher again wearing the garment.
“I’m an umpire with 40 years experience umpiring games all over the place. I know baseball rules by heart,” said Cannister. “He threatened me, saying that I am going to see what will happen to me and that he is not leaving. The protest committee, headed by his father Greg Sr., told me that he won’t go. I told his father that he has to go and he has to go out of the stadium, but as you could see, he was protecting his son. His father told me that if I didn’t allow him back on the field, he would remove me from the game and that I would not be allowed to umpire anymore in The Bahamas. I told him ‘so beith’.”
Greg Jr. had a different account of what transpired and said there was no threats made.
“What happened is the pitcher had a very bright bandana on under his hat and that was a clear violation,” said Greg Jr. “The umpire told me that it wasn’t against the rules but added that if a player had an issue with it, he would ask him to remove it. One of my players asked for the removal and the umpire asked the pitcher to take it off and he put it in his pocket. In the next inning, he came out with the bandana on his head again and after I questioned him about it, he threw me out of the game.
“A lot of things were blatantly discriminative toward my boys and what is allowed and what is not allowed. It’s unfortunate that we don’t check these guys when they come here. In my position, it’s important that I stand up for my players and for Bahamian players in general and not allow persons with an agenda to come in here and dictate to us.”
As for Greg Sr., he is the commissioner of Babe Ruth Baseball Caribbean Region and was the head of the protest committee for the tournament.
Cannister said he wasn’t backing down and by no means would have allowed Greg Jr. to re-enter the game as a coach. The game was halted for about an hour before order was partially restored.
“There is nowhere in the world, when an umpire ejects someone, even if he is right or wrong, that the person comes back on the field or in the game. It doesn’t exist. It was agreed that the game would continue without the coach and that he would be asked to leave the premises. I was asked to continue and I told my umpire-in-chief that normally I don’t do this but I will continue for him,” said Cannister. “The moment I got back on the field, he (Greg Jr.) was behind the backstop and he continued to threaten me. I told the guy from the protest committee to remove him but as you can see they are protecting someone. They should have called the cops. They didn’t do anything and I finished the game. No one was protecting me.”
Cannister went on to say that he was physically attacked by Greg Jr. in the locker room after the game, but Greg Jr. dispelled that notion, saying that all he did was throw some water on him. Cannistersaid it was much more than that. He said he filed a report to Babe Ruth League on the incident, and at the end of the day, he’s just relieved that no serious damage was done and that he didn’t suffer any major injury.
“After the game, he (Greg Jr.) came into the locker room and jumped on me and threw punches into my face. I started to defend myself and a colleague came inside and started to move him. He threw a bottle of water at me and it hit me in my hand. It could have been worse. Imagine if he had a gun or a knife with him. He could have easily killed me in there,” said Cannister.
Greg Jr. refuted those claims.
“Nothing physical happened. That wasn’t the case,” he said. “It was a clear uniform violation by their pitcher and all I did was bring it to the umpire’s attention. He (pitcher) was wearing a very bright bandana, it was very visible and it became a distraction to my hitters. I simply asked the umpire to have the pitcher remove it, and he removed it at first, but by the next inning he had it back on again. When I asked about it again, he threw me out of the game.
“I don’t think anything will come out of it. There was nothing physical. I didn’t put my hands on him. His story is one sided on what happened and that’s unfortunate. I think it would just be best that he doesn’t umpire any game in The Bahamas again.”
Greg Sr. backed up those statements from his son, saying that nothing physical transpired and that there was no fight. He said an incident did take place, they shook hands afterwards and the matter was over.
At the end of the day, The Bahamas lost the game to Puerto Rico 6-5 and ended up playing North Netherlands in the bronze medal game. They won that game, 8-0, Monday night. The Bahamas’ 12U team finished fifth.
Over 200 athletes from countries from around the region, the United States and as far away as Europe took part in the five-day tournament.