While watching my sons little league baseball team warm up I was informed that there had been a shooting days earlier at a park here in the center of good living Ocoee, Florida. Our sleepy southern town doesn’t suffer from a great amount of crime or violence so any discharging of a firearm is big news. The baseball mom who shared the information with me was a bit sketchy on her facts and details so she left me curious as to exactly what happened. The boys all played great that day as we beat the team from the city of Clermont by twelve runs and headed on our way back to Ocoee.
A few days later I was at the West Orange Girls Club watching one of our four daughters play in a travel softball tournament when I received more details about the shooting incident. A parent on the team was also a little league coach and his team played a game the evening of the shooting. It would seem that afternoon at the ball park had a lot more drama than just someone discharging a firearm.
This parent coached with another dad who’s boy was very close to his own lad. The kids were like brothers and the dad was an exceptional coach, when he could keep his head. Sometimes the exceptional transforms into explosive. One of my sons played for this same duo of coaches and with these same two young players two years earlier. It was a great season and the coaches did an awesome job until there was an incident on the diamond.
Coach got into an argument with the other teams coaches over a play where his young son was injured. He felt it was a dirty play; eventually he challenged the other coaches to a fist fight. Coach was tossed from the game and eventually suspended for the rest of the season when he refused to make amends. Unknown to me he and the other coach had history. They were going to fight four years earlier when their older sons were playing against one another. The two tried to throw hands by the railroad tracks after the game but there were too many mediators and peace makers there preventing them from becoming physical with one another.
Now on this day at the ball park coach was at it again. The coach in the opposite dug out was complaining about interference on the base path. The disagreement escalated into an argument, then there were threats thrown. Coach takes threats literally so he informed the other coach that when they game was done they were going to fight. At the conclusion of the game coach huddled his team up and gave them praise for their performance in the win. After the young players did their victory lap and packed up their bats and gloves, coach saw them all off.
As soon as his players had left the ball park, coach sprinted around the outside of the baseball field and stopped behind the center field fence. He took his shirt off and started calling the opposing team’s coach out. He invited the guy to come join him behind the field so that they could find out who was more of a man. Waving his arms and jumping up and down he taunted his rival to no avail. Now that the game was over, his adversary’s angry emotions had cooled. He sat in the bleachers refusing to engage in fisticuffs.
Eventually the teller of this story, dad the assistant coach, went out to coax his friend away from center field. He got Coach to walk over to an adjacent park where their vehicles were parked so that they could put their equipment away. As they discussed the night’s events they could see three teens standing around a car across the parking lot. Suddenly a car pulled up and two boys jumped out. The coaches paid the kids no mind.
Then they heard shots ring out. Instinctually dad, the assistant coach reached for his firearm on his hip. It wasn’t there. Being a law enforcement officer, he always had his gun on him, except when he was coaching. He didn’t want any of the kids bumping into it in the dugout. The car of reckless teens sped off while everyone else took cover. There were no casualties or even injuries because the youths just shot the gun in the air. Fortunately the slugs landed harmlessly in a field a quarter mile away. Within moments, police were on the scene investigating what happened.
Initially the teens were tight lipped about who the assailants were and what the motive may have been. Eventually the authorities would get to the bottom of the crime and who to hold responsible. The situation could have been far more dire. Reportedly the boys at the park were engaged in an altercation with a brother of one of the kids in the car. They just wanted to show the other boys that they meant business and that they better not bother their brother again. This could have been a youthful indiscretion turned deadly.
If Dad had his gun he would have drawn down on the boys and a shoot out might have ensued. The ex-military homicide detective was a marksman. The boys could have lost their lives that day or hit someone in the distance when the bullets fell back to earth. The whole incident got Coach to thinking about life, coaching and how he conducted himself. He realized that life was short and you never know when your time is up. There are more serious things going on in the world than a little league baseball game. He decided that in the future he would see the game for what it was, a game. Little boys playing a game should be a joyous thing not surrounded with competitive, hot headed adults. That day, Coach became a better coach and a better man. Juvenile delinquents were arrested and Dad was so glad that he wasn’t forced to use deadly force against minors. Wow, what a day at the ball park.
A Day at The Ball Park