2 former Orioles batboys say they were abused by former Red Sox clubhouse manager

March 05, 2012|By Justin Fenton, The Baltimore Sun

As a teenager growing up in the shadow of Memorial Stadium, working as a batboy in the clubhouses with the Baltimore Orioles and opposing teams was a dream job for Ronald Shelton.

But Shelton said he quietly left the job before he had planned to do so after being twice sexually assaulted in an equipment room in 1990 by a Red Sox clubhouse manager, Donald Fitzpatrick, when the Boston team was in town. Now all these years later, Fitzpatrick has been linked to a growing number of claims of sexual assault. And Shelton has come forward.

"He told me to 'Be good,' and as I got older, I came to understand what that meant: Do not tell," said Shelton, now a 38-year-old father. He said the experience made him fear being considered "abnormal," and as a result of his experience, he is fiercely protective of his son.

Shelton and a second, unnamed former Orioles batboy this week joined a growing number of former Red Sox attendants who say that Fitzpatrick, who died in 2005, abused them.

Boston lawyer Mitchell Garabedian said Monday that though the statute of limitations for legal action has expired in many of the cases, the alleged victims are seeking settlements from the Red Sox as well as the Orioles because the teams failed to protect the young employees. The accusers are seeking $5 million each from the teams.

"It is time for the Boston Red Sox to step up to the plate and reveal what they knew about the serial pedophile Donald Fitzpatrick," Garabedian said in a phone interview on Monday. "It's also time for the Baltimore Orioles to reveal what they knew. ... There's a public responsibility when it comes to dealing with children. … These organizations should come clean so children in the future are not sexually molested."

The Boston Globe reported that a total of 21 individuals have come forward to make claims spanning decades, and the newspaper called it the "worst sexual abuse scandal in Major League Baseball history."

The Orioles, through spokeswoman Monica Barlow, said the team had notified Major League Baseball commissioner Bud Selig's office of the allegations. The spokeswoman declined further comment.

Garabedian said he has reached out to the teams and wants them to produce records or other possible evidence that others might have known what was happening.

Allegations of sexual abuse by Fitzpatrick are not new — he was convicted of sexually assaulting young boys in 2002 and one former clubhouse attendant showed up at a nationally televised game in 1991 holding a sign that read, "Don Fitzpatrick sexually assaulted me." The Red Sox have paid settlements to several former attendants.

But the accusations that Fitzpatrick abused staff members of opposing teams raises the possibility that there could be victims across the country and other clubs, Garabedian said. "This is the tip of the sexual abuse iceberg," he said.

The surfacing of new allegations follows the widespread attention of the abuse scandal at Penn State University involving former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky, who has been charged with 52 counts accusing him of sexually abusing boys, and allegations from three former Syracuse basketball ballboys that they were abused by assistant coach Bernie Fine, who has not been charged.

As a bat boy, young baseball fans get to rub elbows with their heroes. They wear uniforms and enjoy access to the playing field and other exclusive areas — perks most fans can only dream of.

Jimmy Triantas worked as an Orioles bat boy from 1985 to 1988, and in the clubhouse until 1990, and keeps in touch with some of his former clubhouse attendants. He was taken aback by the allegations that abuse may have occurred in Memorial Stadium, which was demolished a decade ago.

"I've never heard anything like that," said Triantas, now 41. "That really surprises me — that stuff didn't happen as far as I knew."

The accusers say coming forward has not been easy. Charles Crawford, a former Red Sox batboy who came forward in December, said he was the envy of his friends at the time. "Anybody who knew me when I had the job and probably looked up to me is now like, 'Wow, he was holding this in for so long,' " said Crawford, 36.

In many states, the time to file civil lawsuits is limited. Under Maryland law, there is no time limitation for criminal prosecution of sexual offenses against children, but those victims only retain their right to sue civilly until they are 25 years old. Advocates say many victims aren't able to come to terms with the abuse and talk about it until years later.

"When a child is abused, they are made to feel worthless and powerless, and it takes many years" for them to come forward, said Frank Dingle, a Baltimore representative of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests. "Sex abuse is an epidemic in this country, and our legislators protect the insurance companies and the church rather than the hundreds of thousands of kids abused every year."

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