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Fallon incident embarrasses South Tahoe Babe Ruth officials

Steve Yingling

Things are simmering down following Sunday’s near-brawl in the Fallon-South Tahoe Babe Ruth 15-Year-Old All-Star game.

Yet, there still are conflicting reports to what actually transpired during the elimination game.

South Tahoe Manager Clay Giffin compared the scene to something right out of a South American soccer match.

“It became a survival thing. I felt like I was at a South American soccer game. There was taunting, screaming, threatening remarks and they were just being vulgar to our players,” Giffin said. “We didn’t start a bad blood thing here. We were the brunt of it.”

Conversely, Fallon Babe Ruth League President Tom Ellis admitted that while each side was antagonistic toward one another, there never was a threat of a riot.

“It wasn’t that big of a deal; it was blown out of proportion. About five of us were standing there and we would have made sure that nothing would have happened,” Ellis said.

Don Lee, South Tahoe Babe Ruth vice president, said two parties were responsible for the tension.

“Sitting in the front row, I felt the Tahoe kids were a pretty sorry group. They probably shouldn’t have taken some of those kids with them. They were pretty out of line. The Fallon fans and parents were (also) completely out of line, especially for a host team,” Lee said.

Ellis said an incident an hour before the game ignited the fuse. South Tahoe had taken the field prematurely and was asked to leave by a group of 16-year-olds who were responsible for preparing the field prior to the first game, according to Ellis.

“They asked (Tahoe) to get off, and both sides started bad-mouthing each other,” Ellis said. “I know our 16-year-olds could have handled it better. Nobody was supposed to practice on the field, but the gate was left unlocked. They could have used the batting cages.”

During the course of the seven-inning game, which Fallon won 7-4, two Tahoe players were ejected by umpires and another was dismissed by the Tahoe coaching staff.

Following the game, Giffin didn’t shake hands with the opposing coaches and he didn’t permit his players to do so either.

Giffin indicated on Monday that he was worried about the players’ and fans’ safety during the traditional postgame handshake. On Tuesday, he reiterated those concerns.

“In the dugout, it was a hostile situation. These kids had had enough. I went to get an umpire to have some kind of control before we went out, but I couldn’t get one, ” Giffin said. “Our kids wanted bats and balls to go out there. So I said, “Let’s get out of here and avoid a situation.”

Assistant coach Mark Shehadi was the only Tahoe representative to congratulate the opposing coaches and players.

“It was the honorable thing to do. Fallon left and then they came back once I started shaking their hands,” Shehadi said. “They said, ‘It’s good to know that somebody from South Tahoe has some class.'”

Added Lee, “It looked really bad that they never went out to shake hands. It was embarrassing for South Tahoe, and it was embarrassing for Fallon because they were outrageous.”

But the tension didn’t subside once the game ended.

According to Lee, some Tahoe players walked over to Fallon’s side afterwards and incited another argument.

“When they lost the game, I know how teams feel. They got to the back of the (Fallon) stands and they started mouthing off to each other,” Ellis said.

Order was restored before a fight broke out.

Bill Peterson, South Tahoe Babe Ruth league president, is upset about what transpired and is investigating the matter.

“I’ve been on the phone all day trying to piece together what happened and trying to get people’s unbiased opinion,” said the first-year president. “As league president, I’m responsible for what went on. I feel we were completely to blame. I feel we need to formally apologize to Fallon.

“I don’t want that kind of bad blood to permeate through other sports.”

In fact, Peterson said he may drive to this weekend’s all-star tournament in Elko and hand deliver an apology to Ellis.

“I’ve known all of these kids since Little League, and these 15-year-olds sometimes have a difficult time controlling emotions,” Peterson said.

Ellis, who has been around Babe Ruth baseball for 30 years, said he hasn’t seen a brawl since one broke out during a regional game 10 years ago in Carson City.

“A couple of coaches had to be kicked out, and the cops escorted the umpires off the field,” Ellis said. “I think you find it more in the 15-year-old tournament than the other tournaments. The kids are getting older, and a lot of times they have a little more of a chip on their shoulders.”

Ironically, Lee, who manages Tahoe’s 14-Year-Old All-Stars, opens tournament play against Fallon on Saturday in Elko.

“I’ve been shaking ever since what I saw this weekend,” Lee said.


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