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5 Suspended After 40 Major-Plus Title Game

Dec. 1, 2013 – Ross McCulligan

Ross McCulligan

Softball News Report

The wholesale suspension of all players on two 40 Masters teams for unsportsmanlike conduct during the World Masters Championships (WMC) was modified by a SSUSA Appeals Board in December.

Suspensions were upheld for five individuals involved in the incident between Team Braves and J.K., Inc., for the 2014 season. The five also face probation for the 2015 season.

Suspensions were lifted on all other players involved, but they face a zero-tolerance probationary period for the 2014 season, according to the Appeals Board report.

Originally all players on both teams had been suspended; Team Braves for the 2014 season and J.K., Inc., indefinitely.

The suspensions stemmed from an incident on October 6 at Sunset Softball Complex during the “IF” game of the 40 Major Plus division at the WMC. Team Braves forced an “IF” game by defeating J.K., Inc., 30 to 25, in the championship game.

A pattern of disrespect toward their opponents, the umpires and field director began in the championship and continued into the “IF” game, according to reports by umpires and directors filed with SSUSA. An argument over the sun’s interference on the field sparked a bench clearing argument laced with physical altercation, swearing and complete disrespect towards the umpires and field director, according to the reports.

After one ejection, the turmoil was managed and the game was moved to another field where J.K., Inc. eventually won the championship, 30 -14.

Prior to the tournament, both managers and players had been warned in an email and at the manager’s meeting that unsportsmanlike conduct and tactics of intimidation toward umpires and directors would not be tolerated.

In addition, a copy of the SSUSA code of conduct had also been sent to each 40 Master player via email prior to the tournament.

“A ballplayer’s athletic ability is not a license for shameful behavior. This type of conduct is a disgrace to the sport and there is no place for it in senior softball,” wrote Terry Hennessy, SSUSA Chief Executive Officer, in his letter notifying both teams of their original suspensions. Team Braves suspension was effective for the 2014 season only, with a probationary period to follow. J.K., Inc. however had been suspended indefinitely due to a previous team suspension in 2009 for gross unsportsmanlike conduct.

Suspended players and coaches were allowed a written appeal within 30 days of the suspension notice. An Appeals Board of three national directors, who were not present during the matter or involved with the original suspension decision, governed the appeals.

The Appeals Board met during the National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., on December 4 to complete their review of the incident and make a final ruling. They interviewed individuals directly involved and reviewed each suspended players formal appeal.

One player, Scott Camery of Team Braves, was absolved of blame because he was not present during the incident.

Suspensions were upheld for Team Braves manager Glen Thompson, J.K., Inc. manager Robert Martinez and J.K. Inc., sponsor Jeff Kieffer because of a lack of ‘institutional control,” over their teams.

Kieffer and Martinez were the only two individuals associated with J.K. Inc. during their previous suspension in 2009.

Thompson actually took full responsibility for his team’s actions, and recommended his own suspension in lieu of suspending his players.

All three individuals will be suspended for the 2014 season and placed on a probationary period for 2015.

Two players were also suspended.

J.K. Inc, player Dennis Rulli and Team Braves player, Silvester Sital, were suspended for the 2014 season for engaging in a physical altercation. Both players will also be placed on a probationary period for the 2015 season.

In addition to the individual suspensions the Appeals Board has also imposed team penalties to both J.K. Inc., and Team Braves. Should either team decide to play, absent the suspended players and managers, they will be forced to play ‘Exhibition’ during the 2014 season and only participate in the minimum of guaranteed games. Also, neither team will be allowed to participate in the 2014 Western Nationals or World Masters Championships. The team invitations to the upcoming 2014 Tournament of Champions have been revoked.

In a separate incident, David Reay, manager of the Buc’s (50 AAA) has been suspended for the 2014 season following an ejection during the WMC on October 5 at Lorenzi Softball Complex. Reay was ejected for unsportsmanlike conduct while using vulgar language towards officials and needed to be restrained. The suspension was upheld following an appeal by Reay.

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