Cantine Memorial Field in Saugerties was an impressive stadium to host the 2015 American Legion Baseball District III Tournament. Four teams competed for the bid into the State Championships to be held next week in Utica. Saugerties played Schenectady County July 20 in an elimination game. Both teams played extremely well, fans supported their teams and the outcome was 4-3 in favor of Saugerties. I wish I could tell you it was an enjoyable evening at the ballpark.
My son will age-out of American Legion play next year so sadly, my last remembrance of Legion ball will be how officials and Saugerties American Legion Post 72 coaches handled (or didn’t handle) the repeated code of conduct infractions of one of their spectators.
As a parent and high school teacher sitting up in the grandstand last evening, I viewed that man’s actions as outright bullying. An adult male was allowed to verbally harass our 18-year-olds from the fence outside the third base dugout with no one stepping in to get involved. Neither the Saugerties manager, Rich Koegel or his coaches, their fans in the stands, the officials, nor any commissioner from the American Legion approached this man about his derogatory banter directed at Schenectady players on the field. When our coach and players expressed their angst about this, nothing was done and that man was allowed to walk to our side and continue his bullying to the right of the first-base dugout in front of our parents again directed toward our players. As if that wasn’t bad enough, he walked onto the field of play in the middle of the game to confront our coach on the right-field line which should have been an immediate ejection as per American Legion baseball rules.
One of our player’s fathers attempted to calm the man down, remind him that the game was about the players, not the fans and I saw him shake hands with the man. Sadly, that same man walked back to the Saugerties side, assumed his position next to third-base dugout and continued his heckling/bullying of our players.
Sadly, after the game, this man entered the field, shook hands with the Saugerties coaches, hugged players and was clearly a respected fan (or possibly a relative of one of the players or coaches).
If I witnessed harassment/bullying in school, as a teacher I am mandated to report it, get involved and stop it. I sat up in the grandstand, looking out at stadium truly feeling helpless to stop this. It continued throughout the whole nine inning game. I have never experienced anything like this in my son’s 10-plus years in baseball.
If any of our fans at our home field in Collins Park ever acted this way, our coach, our parents and fans would have put an end to this harassment against an opposing team. We would not want this representing who we are and who we are representing in our community.
I wish the remaining two teams good luck and please remember that the winner will be representing an American Legion Post and our whole area’s American Legion baseball in Utica next week. Please make sure the team, manager, coaches, commissioners and fans sign on to this; this honor should not be taken lightly.