Both the Visalia Oaks and the South Bend Silver Hawks have endured some early season frustrations, and they all came to a head Monday night.
The Oaks won four games to begin the 2008 season, which probably made losing five of their next seven contests that much more difficult. In their 12th game of the season, the Oaks had a first-and-third situation in a tie ballgame, with speedy shortstop Pedro Ciriaco being the runner at third. Manager Mike Bell called for a double steal, and on the ensuing play at the plate, Ciriaco was called out on a close play.
Ciriaco, who still does not know a whole lot of English, may have argued the call in an angry mix of English and Spanish. Home plate umpire Dan Oliver either knew enough Spanish to take offense, or Ciriaco knew enough curse words in English to set Oliver off. Ciriaco was tossed out of the game, and Bell soon followed his player to the showers after defending Ciriaco's case to the ump.
Not five minutes later, starting pitcher Wes Roemer plunked Inland Empire's Trayvon Robinson, the second batter of the inning, with a pitch. Oliver then removed Roemer from the game with another swift flick of the wrist.
Missing their manager, ace starting pitcher, and their best all-around infielder, the Oaks would go on to lose the game 3-1.
Thousands of miles northeast and dozens of degrees cooler, the South Bend Silver Hawks experienced a similar phenomenon on the same night. The Hawks had even more reason to feel frustration than the Oaks due to their beginning the season 0-9. But by the second inning of Monday night's game in Kane County, they had just come off an 11-1 victory and were leading the undefeated Cougars by a score of 1-0.
Similarly, top infield prospect Taylor Harbin had been struggling all season long before driving in that first run of the game with a ringing double. He came to the plate again in the second with the bases loaded and two outs, and missed a grand slam home run by mere feet, with the line shot just pulling foul left. Harbin worked the count full before taking a pitch that appeared to be up and away.
Home plate umpire Jason Alper thought it was good enough, and Harbin's body language did not sit well with the man in blue. According to South Bend manager Mark Haley, the umpire declared that he would call that high strike all night. A dejected Harbin then turned away, mumbling, "you call that a strike" under his breath, which Alper mistook as something more derogatory.
The Silver Hawks' dugout erupted when they saw Alper remove Harbin from the game, and Haley soon got in the umpire's face about it. His voice reverberated around a sparsely populated Elfstrom stadium on a cold April night, and some of the youngsters in attendance may have increased their vocabularies after that exchange.
Unlike the Oaks, the Silver Hawks were able to rally around those ejections and win their second straight game by the score of 5-4. Unfortunately, the following day, a 2-2 tie in the ninth was ended on a bases loaded walk from reliever Evan Scribner. The entire South Bend squad felt that Scribner was being squeezed by umpire Justin Sassaman all inning long, and pitching coach Erik Sabel must have voiced his opinion the loudest. Even though the game has ended, Sassaman ejected Sabel from the ballgame.
So on a wild Monday night, two Arizona Diamondbacks affiliates combined to lose five players and coaches to ejections, and a sixth was lost the following day.
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