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Afton police chief warns citations could be issued to disorderly fans

Published: Friday, July 26, 2013 5:09 a.m. CDT

Just as I was publishing a column two weeks ago about some changes I’ve seen over the years on the high school diamonds, not all of them positive in terms of parental conduct, Afton Police Chief John Coulter was addressing the issue from the youth standpoint.

“For Pete’s Sake, It’s a Pee Wee Baseball Game!” was the lead sentence of his address i the Afton Star Enterprise.

During the last week of June, he was dispatched to the Afton Recreation Field during Pee Wee (third-fourth graders) games. The first call was for a disruptive.disorderly spectator during the Afton vs. Tingley games.

Apparently, this person was upset with the umpire an started using foul language toward the umpire.

The second call, on the same night, was a confrontation between coaches and the umpire. Again the behavior and language was totally in appropriate for any sporting event, much less in front of young children who are supposed to be there to have fun.

Then, several days later, Coulter was again dispatched to the Recreation Field for a disturbance between an opposition’s team member, coaches and the umpire. Later, one of the coaches came forward and apologized for his behavior to his players and the Afton Recreation Board.

“In any athletic competition there is bound to be excitement, anticipation, high emotions and disappointment,” Coulter wrote. “Obviously there will be a winner and a loser. We, as adults, should not forget that the primary goal at athletic competitions at any level is to teach sportsmanlike conduct to the participants and spectators.

“What these few parents — and obviously even some coaches and umpires — have forgoten this summer is that the type of behavior displayed at the Afton Recreation Field can be a turnoff to many children and teens participating in sports.”

Since his article appeared, Coulter said several athletically capable teens and young adults approached him and told him that the primary reason they no longer participate in organized sports is directly related to the abuse or disorderly behaviors, and they decided they no longer needed it. What a loss!

The fallout of all of this is, of course, difficulty in finding officials and umpires who want to contribute to the sport, but decide not to because of this verbal (and sometimes worse) abuse. Some teenagers told Coulter they refuse to umpire Pee Wee and T-ball games because of being told things that start with an obscenity and end with the word “idiot.”

In these past incidents, warnings were issued. But, Coulter cautions that his department and others around the state are not hesitant to issue citations or make arrests for disorderly conduct if they feel it becomes necessary. Nobody wants that, but it could happen.

“As adults, parents, coaches, umpires and participants at any sporting event, we should be setting a positive example by using appropriate behavior,” Coulter concluded.

•••

The wrestler who set the foundation for what became a rich tradition in Creston died on July 10.

Mike “Howie” Howard, 56, battled mouth cancer for several years. His later years were a struggle, in stark contrast to the dynamic effect he had on a great run of strong wrestling teams in the 1970s under coaches Jerome Hruska and Rich Downing.

Howard was Creston’s first individual state champion, taking the 112-pound title in 1973 and repeating at 119 pounds in 1974. Panthers with multiple championships are Howard (2), Dennis Smith (2), Dylan Long (2), Andrew Hayes (2), Andrew Long (3), Kalab Evans (2) and Jake Marlin (4).

Howard, the first St. Malachy student to practice with the public school kids and be accepted as part of their junior high team, wasn’t the favorite to win in either 1973 or 1974. He just found a way.

“He was dedicated in the room,” said state runner-up teammate John Walters. “He did a few things really well, and nobody stopped him. It wasn’t flashy. He did what it took to win.”

Howard becomes the third deceased state placewinner from that team in 1973 that placed fourth for the second straight year. Rick Conard was fifth, and Mike Abel was sixth. Abel was on his way to a higher finish the next year as a senior, but suffered a tragic death in a toboggan accident.

That 1974 team took sixth despite the loss of Abel and Danny Hayes to a knee injury right before districts, after he had rolled past the eventual district champ at sectionals.

Howard wrestled at SWCC and seemed headed for juco All-American honors, but was sidelined by a shoulder injury.

•••

With Scott Vicker out west watching his beloved Mariners on vacation, I’m subbing for him in covering the Clarke Lady Indians at state for the Osceola Sentinal-Tribune, as well as the News Advertiser.

It’s been fun to watch them march to today’s championship game. I’d have to say, one through nine in the lineup, I’m not sure I’ve covered a better hitting team. A state tourney record 21 hits with three home runs Thursday convinced me, even with a strong wind blowing out. All but two of the seven home runs in the game were legitimate, wind or not.

Clarke batters only struck out twice in 41 at-bats in a state tournament game, where there are no slouch pitchers.

Contact the writer:

Twitter: @larrypeterson

Email: lpeterson@crestonnews.com

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