Minor-League Baseball Takes Major Image Hit

Article excerpt

Byline: Associated Press

COLUMBUS, Ohio Minor-league baseballs reputation for good, clean family entertainment might require a stronger rating.

The sport has taken a hit over a bench-clearing brawl in which a player has been charged with assaulting a fan. And the trouble doesnt end there.

The Midwest League suspended and fined 15 players and both managers Friday for the July 24 fight between the Single-A Dayton Dragons and Peoria Chiefs.

"Its certainly a black eye for the industry, but unfortunately altercations on the field are part of the game," said Joe McEacharn, president of the Double-A Eastern League.

That latest skirmish in Dayton led umpires to eject 15 players and the managers. Pitcher Julio Castillo was later arrested, accused of throwing a ball into the stands that hit a fan in the forehead and sent the 44-year-old man to the hospital.

Castillo, who was later reassigned to the Rookie League in Mesa, Ariz., faces up to eight years in prison and a $15,000 fine if convicted of felony assault.

Aaron Brown witnessed the brawl and calls it an isolated case.

"It certainly wont deter me from continuing to go to minor-league baseball games," said Brown, a 28-year-old fan who also attends Triple-A Columbus Clippers games each year. "I think its just good baseball at its purest form."

The Dayton mayhem was the latest in a string of embarrassments in the minors.

This week four players on the Dominican Summer League teams of the St. Louis Cardinals and Florida Marlins were suspended 50 games after failing steroids tests.

Last year, former major-league all-star Jose Offerman was charged in a bat-wielding attack during a minor-league game that injured two opposing players. A Connecticut judge put Offerman on probation and ordered him into anger management treatment.

Two Washington Nationals minor-leaguers were hospitalized in 2007 after a benches-clearing brawl during a game between the Potomac Nationals and the Winston-Salem Warthogs.

Its hard to tell how often similar things have happened. …