Reporting Bob Roberts
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BLOOMINGTON, Ill. (CBS) — The Illinois High School Association has put the St. Rita and St. Laurence baseball programs, and their head coaches, on probation through the end of next season because of an ugly brawl last week.
As WBBM Newsradio’s Bob Roberts reports, it happened at Silver Cross Field in Joliet. IHSA Executive Director Marty Hickman said video taken in the bottom of the 7th inning shows St. Laurence’s Zach Lewis elbowing St. Rita first baseman Rick Faron as Faron tries to catch Lewis’ pop-up. Faron retaliates by pushing Lewis in the face.
LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Bob Roberts reports
Hickman said that response has no place in high school athletics.
“Most, if not all, of the coaches on both of those teams should have done more,” he said. “Situations such as that don’t escalate when you have the leadership you need.”
Hickman says the punishment would have been worse, had either school been uncooperative. Both principals unilaterally imposed suspensions, which IHSA upheld, and Hickman said both principals have promised that all of the school’s athletes and coaches will undergo sportsmanship training.
“It was ugly, inappropriate, no place, can’t say enough bad things about it,” Hickman said.
The game was a memorial tournament to Steven Bajenski, a Mount Carmel player who died from heart complications following surgery three years ago. CBS 2’s Brad Edwards talked with Bajenski’s disappointed father earlier this week.
“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.”
Following the brawl, 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.”
Hickman said both teams have been warned that any repetition will bring a far stronger response.