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Youth baseball league tightens guidelines on unruly behavior

Warns players, parents of ban

One strike and they're out.

That's the edict that Whaling City Youth Baseball League president David Dumont has issued to the parents of the New Bedford league's players.

In the last two weeks, fights between young athletes' mothers and verbal abuse heaped on umpires have disrupted games at Brooklawn Park, prompting Dumont to suspend all games for a five-day cooling off period -- the league's most drastic measure in its 54 years.

Under the new policy, parents who taunt or shout profanities at umpires, or players from the opposing teams, will be ejected from games, along with their children on the field.

The league hopes the policy will prevent incidents like those that prompted the ban. The first incident occurred on July 25, when two mothers started name-calling and then began to fight in the stands. Their sons dashed off the field midgame, hopped the fence, and joined in the brawl. There were no reported injuries, Dumont said. Police would not confirm whether any arrests had been made.

Then last Tuesday, the father of one player, who had been ejected from a game the previous day while coaching his son's team, attempted to return to the park. League rules state that anyone ejected must serve a one-day suspension and cannot return to Brooklawn Park. The man was escorted from the premises by league officials.

Dennis Macedo, the league's chief umpire, said that this year parents of some losing teams have been threatening umpires more frequently, saying: ''I hope you got someone to walk you back to your car" and ''I hope you're not walking down a dark street."

Macedo said that competitive spirit, at least among parents, has gone beyond acceptable limits.

''They want blood," he said. ''I think they're trying to live their life through their children on the field. These poor kids. They're 12 years old."

Macedo said he almost quit last week after two years as chief umpire. But he reached an agreement with Dumont to increase the police presence at games.

For half a century, the Youth Baseball League has been a key facet of the New Bedford community. The league is for children between the ages of 8 and 12, but many sign up for life -- returning as coaches or involved parents. Its goal has always been to steer children away from street life and violence, said Tom Viera, the league's public relations officer.

During the hiatus, Dumont is holding meetings with the parents of each player and the team coaches to discuss ways to prevent fights such as offering programs on sportsmanship.

Dumont considered canceling the season but decided that a few incidents should not ruin the summer for everyone. Games are set to resume tomorrow and the playoffs are scheduled to begin the following week.

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