Believe it or not, especially if you attended Friday night's first high school baseball game at Joe Cannon Stadium, Northeast head baseball coach Harry Lentz and umpire Warren Williams agree on something.
After one of the most controversial high school games in county history was stopped via a stadium supervisor enforcing curfew rules in the top of the 13th inning and Old Mill leading 6-5, Lentz and Williams agree with the other coach and other umpire that the game should becompleted.
That is good news and good for the kids who these games are supposed to be for.
Technically the game could result in a forfeit for Lentz's unbeaten Eagles (11-0) because his team left the field following a bizarre final play.
"I would hate to see them lose that way even though they did leave the field," said Williams in taking a commendable attitude with the best interests of the kids first and foremost.
"It's kind of an unwritten rule (among the umpires) that we never forfeit a high school game, and what happened Friday night has bothered me all weekend. Despite what happened, Northeast deserves to get their last at bat and it should be a suspended game."
Major-league baseball umpires and those who work college games should take a page from Williams because of the fairness he is displaying here. Too often the big-timers think they are infallible and wouldn't think of giving a coach and his team a second chance.
Certainly those with that kind of attitude would not give an inch and call it a forfeit onthe technicality -- National Federation rules say if your team leaves the field in protest, it's an automatic forfeit. To give in for thesake of the kids would be unforgiveable in the eyes of the pompous.
Williams and the guy he worked with Friday night, Frank "Jocko" Svoboda, the base umpire, are not among the pompous, and really do careabout the kids. That itself shows umpires can be 'human and show compassion too. And that comes from the top -- Anne Arundel Umpires Association chief Jack Kramp, who encourages his men to be understanding,patient and not too quick with the old heave-ho. At the same time, they are not to lose control either.
Here's what happened.
With two outs in the top of the 13th, score tied at 5, Old Mill's Phil McGinnis attempted steal second base. Catcher Derek Dolch of Northeast threw the ball into center field, and McGinnis put it in fifth gear and sped for home.
McGinnis and the baseball arrived simultaneously,but the relay was in the dirt, and Dolch couldn't handle it as McGinnis slid in. That is where the confusion began.
Lentz and many others watching the play, including a few Old Mill players thought McGinnis had missed the plate, but Williams insists he touched it with hisfoot.
Rushing to the plate in sheer jubilation, Old Mill players were out near home plate within seconds. One of those players helped McGinnis back to the plate to touch it for the first time or second time depending on who you believe?
If a runner is assisted by a teammate or coach, that runner is automatically out per Federation rules.
"The on-deck hitter literally carried him (McGinnis) back to home plate," says Lentz. "The guy picked him up at the waist and carriedhim back because the kid didn't touch the plate."
Williams says, "He did touch the plate the first time with his foot. There is no doubt in my mind. I gave the safe sign."
Lentz said Williams did not give the safe sign initially. Umpires are instructed to make no call if a player goes past the plate and wait to see what develops -- if the player comes back or if a defensive player goes and tags him or the plate for an out.
Umpires may also give the safe sign even if hesees that a guy missed the plate, but can immediately signal out if the defensive player goes back and tags the runner.
"Williams did not give the safe sign," said Lentz, disputing the umpires' claim which got him into a heated 10-minute debate with Williams while the Northeast team left the field.
"My team left the field because they thought it was the third out and they came in to get ready to hit. I told them to get ready to hit."
Williams disagrees and says, 'Lentzwanted me to change the call and said his team wasn't going back on the field unless I did change it. That's not showing good sportsmanship.
"The rules say the kids shouldn't run out there as the Old Mill kids did, but they were so excited they just reacted. After all, itwas a four-hour game and they had just scored the go-ahead run. Whether they ran out and assisted the runner or not, didn't matter because I have no doubt that he touched the plate the first time."
Base umpire Svoboda, who conferred with Williams shortly after the play, said yesterday, "I couldn't tell if the kid touched the plate or not, but he might have. The Old Mill players ran out there in the excitement, just like kids do when somebody hits a game-winning home run and I couldn't see if he was assisted or not.