When the right call was a tough one

Published 10:26 pm Tuesday, April 19, 2011

I’ve been to a pretty good sampling of high school and youth sporting events during the last few years, and I can tell you with some authority that ejections are an extremely rare occurrence. But they do happen.

The most common ejections are when a parent or spectator is told to leave the premises for the remainder of the competition. In rarer circumstances, coaches are removed from the game, and rarest of all are the times when players are tossed.

A couple magazine editions ago, I got to interview two local referees, Bucky Payton and Geoff Payne, who’ve officiated field hockey, and in Payne’s case, lacrosse and soccer too, in and around Suffolk for years.


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Through thousands of matches, they each could count on one hand the number of players they’ve had to eject.

On Friday at Deep Creek, it happened to Lakeland senior David Waterfield during a baseball game. But even though the term “ejected” naturally brings up an image of some ugly scene, that wasn’t the case at all.

With Lakeland down by a run, Waterfield tried to score on a double steal. He slid around the catcher. The umpire made no call as Waterfield slid by the plate, meaning there had been no tag by the catcher and no tag of the plate by the runner. Deep Creek’s catcher realized the no-call first and scrambled to tag Waterfield.

Waterfield argued for a couple seconds, including pointing to a clean streak on an otherwise dirt-covered plate, before a Lakeland coach came in to usher him away. He also took off his helmet, not from anger, but from it being mostly off anyway from the play.

By the book, both the argument and the helmet were grounds for ejection, so the umpires got the call right, even as many in the crowd must have felt there should’ve been some space between black and white.

Gray would have seemed a fairer choice, since an ejection carries a one-game suspension with it. So even though the Cavaliers turned the game around in the last couple innings to win 5-3, the consequence carries over.

Waterfield surely knows the rulebook himself, since he umpires PONY League baseball and softball games on weekends and during the summer.

The umpires, largely because the rules are the rules, clearly were correct. But it just goes to show not all ejections, technical fouls or red cards, especially for young players, are created equal.

Waterfield’s been one of Lakeland’s best players and leaders since his sophomore season. I’m sure he could go on to play baseball in college somewhere. Instead, he plans to join the Marines following graduation.

I’m sure he’ll make the Corps proud.