CHICAGO (CBS) — A routine popout during a high school baseball game led to ugliness in Joliet on Friday.
Wednesday is the deadline for two rival Chicago high schools – St. Rita and St. Laurence – to explain themselves and announce the penalties players and coaches will face.
CBS 2’s Brad Edwards reports on a very unsportsmanlike play.
It took place at Silver Cross Field in Joliet, between two teams with heady box score lore. Strikes and balls gave way to strikes and brawls, and the game ended up being not about the play on the field, but the brawl between the two teams.
In the bottom of the 7th inning, a St. Laurence batter took a cheap-shot, elbowing the St. Rita first baseman as he caught the ball, while the batter stepped on first. A bench-clearing brawl followed, and even coaches apparently got involved in the fighting.
The game was a memorial tournament to Steven Bajenski, a Mount Carmel player who died from heart complications following surgery three years ago.
His father, travelling out of state, spoke to CBS 2 on the phone.
Illinois High School Athletics executive Craig Anderson said, “It was not a pretty sight. We reviewed the video and asked the schools to report to us penalties by noon on Wednesday.”
It’s called the “Do It Stevie’s Way Challenge,” but Bajenski’s father said what happened between St. Rita and St. Laurence was not Stevie’s way.
“The family, my wife, my daughter, and everyone on the foundation was pretty disheartened by it. … something just didn’t click, I guess, on that Friday night,” Mark Bajenski said. “I want him to be remembered for a kid who got it, who did it the right way.”
St. Laurence Principal James Muting said, “It was regrettable and I hope it never happens again.”
St. Rita Principal Brendan Conroy said, “To me, it’s not a story, not newsworthy, but it’s certainly presented us with a teachable moment. These are adolescents and we’re working with the guys.”
The penalized parties will include athletes, and very possibly coaches.
Mark Bajenski said “it’s a game,” and he said the spirit of the tournament needs to be respected.
Anderson said IHSA not only wants to know what penalties will be handed down, but what corrective measures will be taken to make sure it never happens again.