It was, as they say, just a strange day at the office.
Saturday past saw the final of the Irish Baseball 'A' League, placing long time rivals the Spartans and Hurricanes together, no other team has won the league since 2001 when the now defunct Panthers took the title. The Spartans (6) and Hurricanes (2) have won every title since. Saturday, the Spartans added to their trophy haul on a dull, wet and cold day at Corcaigh Park. Congratulations to them.
It should have been a day to celebrate all things Irish baseball, however there were two very unusual added elements to the day.
First up to the plate, for the first time ever the Irish Baseball finals experienced 'crowd trouble', as a small group of drunken, rude and disrespectful fans kept an abusive and loud stream of 'noise' going for the best part of both games.
Their boisterous and disrespectful chanting and shouting crossed the line of acceptable 'fan' behaviour. They were, for example, shouting just before a pitch was delivered, name calling individual players, shouting 'swing' at players who were just about to face a pitch, using profanity (at a game attended by several children) and generally making a terrific and embarrassing nuisance of themselves.
These fans appeared to be 'rooting' for the Spartans, although it should be noted they appear to have been players from the Munster Baseball club/association.
Whatever about the lack of respect shown for the game of baseball by these idiots, you do have to wonder about the priorities of someone who takes a day of their life and spends it heckling and verbally abusing amateur players in a sport that they themselves aren't good enough to make the final, at which they are now behaving like morons.
Their asinine behaviour helped create a weird and uncomfortable atmosphere on the day. This was disrespectful to both the Hurricanes and indeed the team they were 'rooting' for, the Spartans, who had both worked hard and had successful seasons towards getting to the finals, unlike the team they play for themselves.
The sad fact is though, you will get cowards like that in all walks of life, who will rain abuse from the safety of a viewing area behind a fence, and then go quiet when confronted about it.
The second element to the unusual finals day was simply bizarre. It should be strongly noted that the plate umpiring in the first game, by veteran Irish umpire Glen Poor, was excellent, as always. Glen has developed into a top class and most of all, fair, umpire. Sadly, the same can't be said about the 'blue' in the second game.
The 'blue' for game two had what can only be described as an 'interesting' day calling balls and strikes, calling a zone that seemed to move and hover between the toes and the neck, depending how he felt at the time. It should be noted that he called this completely ridiculous strike zone both ways. In no way did his surreal 'umpiring' affect the outcome of the game which the Spartans won fair and square.
The most serious issue was his completely bizarre confrontational behaviour.
During game two Hurricanes batter Brian Carter took exception to 'striking out' on a pitch that almost hit his feet it was so low. Several Spartans players and fans actually laughed out loud at the call, it was so bad. Brian politely queried the fact that the ball nearly hit him in the foot, to which the umpire replied, 'don't worry, Ill get you a putter next time', while laughing at Brian.
This caused a commotion, as the Hurricanes skipper Chris Foy and the batter, Brian demanded an explanation as to why the umpire thought it was okay to make such a bad call and then, effectively, talk trash about it, during the finals of the Irish baseball league.
Worse was to follow.
Later on, as Brian waited on deck, a Hurricanes batter grounded out, leaving his bat about three to four feet from home plate. The umpire in question took the bat, and violently spiked it, slung it forcibly at the ground right at Brian's feet. He threw the bat so hard it dug a divot of turf up. His actions were aggressive and dangerous and completely uncalled for.
Have you ever, in your life, seen a baseball umpire throw a bat at a player?
Irish baseball is a wonderful thing. Every now and then though, it can be confusing and disappointing.
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