By BRENT STUBBS
Senior Sports Reporter
The Bahamas Baseball Association issued 15 and five-year suspensions respectively to Greg Burrows Jr and Sr for their actions against Curacao’s home plate umpire Edaine Cannister during a medal placement game in the Babe Ruth Caribbean Baseball Championships at the Andre Rodgers Baseball Stadium on July 30.
In the 16-and-under game played between the Bahamas and Puerto Rico, Cannister ejected Burrows Jr as the manager of Team Bahamas for his constant complaint over a head apparel that the Puerto Rican pitcher was wearing,
After being ejected and refusing to leave the stadium, Burrows Sr, who served as the Babe Ruth League Caribbean commissioner, approached Cannister, along with two other tournament officials, with the view of having Burrows Jr reinstated.
Cannister, a 60-plus year old tournament umpire with more than 40 years of officiating, refused to reinsert Burrows Jr, who verbally abused Cannister from the sidelines and subsequently attacked the 60-plus year-old visiting official in the umpires’ room after the game.
After filing a formal complaint with the BBA, a four-member special panel was assembled, consisting of chairmen Tony Scriven, a lawyer, Brian Armbrister, a Bahamian pro scout, Tommy Stubbs, a former player/administrator and Keith Seymour, another lawyer. The panel, in reviewing the accuracy of eyewitnesses’ statements and account of the incidents, provided their recommendations to the BBA, who presented the facts and its final report.
When contacted, Burrows Sr declined to offer any comments. Burrows Jr was unavailable.
But BBA secretary general Teddy Sweeting said they did their due diligence
and came up with what they considered to be an appropriate ruling which has been passed onto the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture, Babe Ruth Caribbean Baseball and COCABA, the ruling body for baseball in the region under the jurisdiction of the World Baseball Softball Confederation.
“None of the executives were present at the actual event when the altercations transpired,” Sweeting said. “So what we did was we requested eye witness reports from individuals present.
“We set up the panel, who reviewed each of the eye witness reports, they reviewed the actions of the individuals accused and they came back to the executives with their findings.”
Sweeting said they term the action a serious infraction against an umpire, who had water thrown on him and a bottle thrown at him in a restricted area in the umpires’ locker room.
“These suspensions are only from international baseball and events sanctioned by the Bahamas Baseball Association” Sweeting insisted. “However else he wants to conduct his activities, which is outside of our preview, they can continue.
“This is not a suspension from the organisation Freedom Farm, in which they are both affiliated. They just won’t be allowed to participate on any international teams or events that come under the jurisdiction of the BBA.”
• Here’s a look at the report signed by BBA president Sam Rodgers and Sweeting:
1 Umpire warnings to Bahamas Team Manager
Cannister issued four warnings to Burrows Jr to stop delaying the game to argue a headband being worn in the game by Puerto Rico’s team pitcher. Greg Burrows Jr claimed that the piece of cloth was distracting to his team players while they were batting.
Burrows Jr claimed that the umpire asked the pitcher to remove the headband initially but allowed the pitcher to return with it later in the game.
The umpire made it clear that the headband (a green bandana) was not in violation of the team uniform dress code of the tournament. Hence, the Cannister ejected Burrows Jr in the fourth inning of the game with the Bahamas trailing 4-1.
2 Game Stoppage
Burrows Jr refused to leave the playing area after his ejection from the game, resulting in the game being delayed. He accused the umpire of discriminating against The Bahamas.
Burrows Jr was joined on the playing field to challenge the game umpires by a three-member tournament protest committee – Chavez Thompson, Sean Bain and Burrows Sr, the Babe Ruth Caribbean commissioner.
Greg Burrows Sr identified himself to Cannister and demanded the reversal of the ejection of Burrows Jr and that Cannister and Robert Coakley be replaced as game umpires.
1 Game resumes
Tournament chief umpire Andrew Burrows was called to the stadium to address the game situation. He agreed that Burrows Jr was rightfully ejected from the game and cannot be reinstated to continue managing the Bahamas team and that he must leave the stadium before the game resumes.
It was decided that for the rest of the game no player would wear headbands or have placed in their back pockets safety protective hand sliding gloves.
Andrew Burrows was able to convince Cannister and Coakley to return to the playing field to complete the game and promised the umpires no further game interruptions.
2 Foreign teams demand apology
Representatives from the two teams playing the next game on the same day – The Netherlands verses Aruba - witnessed the on-field incident and demanded a verbal apology from Burrows Sr for the actions on the field. They got their wish as the tournament games continued to completion.
3 Threats to the Home Plate Umpire
Burrows Jr did not leave the stadium. From the spectators’ seating area, he verbally insulted the umpire throughout the remainder of the game and issued physical threats, speaking loud enough for many spectators to hear that he would deal with the umpire after the game.
Several times during the game, Cannister asked tournament officials to have Burrows Jr removed from the stadium or call the police for assistance to provide protection for his safety.
Cannister also asked the tournament officials for protection away from Burrows Jr even while he was changing in the locker room after the game. But this did not happen.
4 Assault of the umpire
The Bahamas Team lost the game 6-5 and a chance to play for the gold medal in the tournament. After the game, Burrows Jr entered the umpire’s private locker room without permission or invitation.
Cannister was seated, removing his game protective gear off his body. Burrows Jr uttered insulting remarks with profanity toward the umpire; punches were thrown at the umpire trying to hit him, and water from a bottle was thrown on Cannister and the bottle was thrown in his direction.
Intervening to reduce escalation of the altercation were four tournament participants – base umpire Robert Coakley, tournament committee member Sean Bain, tournament assistant director Chavez Thompson and Netherlands team manager Eugene Henson.
Burrows Jr was forcefully removed from the locker room and escorted out of the stadium by Bain.
BBA Assessment and Decision
The BBA has the authority to govern domestic and international baseball participation under the WBSC membership whether the BBA grants sanctioning or not.
The Babe Ruth League is a private youth baseball organisation that can enforce penalties against its members within its organisation.
The BBA has been in contact with the Babe Ruth leadership on the incident, the formation of the panel and the BBA’s final decision.
Greg Burrows Jr
Burrows Jr has been involved in baseball as a player, coach, manager, trainer for more than 25 years. He has also coached or managed teams at tournaments locally and overseas and played baseball at the professional level. He operates a youth baseball academy in the Bahamas.
He knows the standard rules of the game of baseball for all participants. In his statement, he confirmed there was a verbal exchange and water thrown at the umpire but denied he hit the umpire with a closed-fist punch.
As the Bahamas team manager, Burrows Jr was responsible for controlling his behaviour and actions of all members of the Bahamas’ team.
Within the powers and discretion of game officials, Burrows Jr knows Cannister has the authority to eject him or anyone from the game and in the sport of baseball, there is no precedence to be reinstated once ejected.
The Bahamas team was fortunate - the umpires did not award the game to Puerto Rico when Burrows Jr refused to leave the stadium, which is within the umpire’s discretion.
After his ejection from the game, Burrows Jr did not leave the playing area within the required timeframe.
Furthermore, he violated the rules by going into the spectator seating area (the stands) to give game instructions to his team during the remainder of the game competition. This behaviour and his actions in the umpire locker room, is almost unheard of in any sport and should not be condoned.
Sportsmanship Code of BABE RUTH: “The Sportsmanship Code of Babe Ruth League Develop a strong, clean, healthy body, mind and soul. Develop a strong urge for sportsmanlike conduct. Develop understanding of the respect for the RULES. Develop courage in defeat, tolerance, and modesty in victory. Develop control over EMOTIONS and SPEECH. Develop spirit of cooperation and team play. Develop into real, true CITIZENS. Copyright, 1954 by Babe Ruth League, Inc.”
Each of the violations by Burrows Jr was premeditated. He had over two hours to cool off and consider the consequences of his actions and behaviour.
Penalty for Burrows Jr
Therefore, for his role in these incidents, the BBA is issuing a 15-year suspension to Burrows Jr from all local and international baseball competition in any capacity including and not limited to player, coach, manager, official, executive and organiser in the Bahamas. He can appeal to the BBA for reinstatement after, and not before, 10 years of his suspension.
Greg Burrows Sr
The behaviour and participation of Burrows Sr were in clear violations of the standard baseball rules by ordering the reinstatement of an ejected game participant, namely his son Burrows Jr, and the removal of Cannister and Coakley from the middle of a game if they do not reinstate Burrows Jr.
This is confirmed by both game umpires and umpire Marcellus Hall who was asked by Burrows Sr to replace Cannister but declined until tournament chief umpire Andrew Burrows (no relationship to Greg Sr) advises on the situation.
Babe Ruth Rules states:
9.02 (a) Any umpire’s decision which involves judgment, such as, but not limited to, whether a batted ball is fair or foul, whether a pitch is a strike of a ball, or whether a runner is safe or out, is final. No player, manager, coach, or substitute shall object to any such judgment decision.
9.02 (d) NO umpire may be replaced during a game unless he is injured or becomes ill.
Burrows Sr failed to permit the tournament directors to perform their duties and present a formal complaint to him, as commissioner, to make a ruling.
As the Babe Ruth League Caribbean commissioner, the role of Burrows Sr is one of ensuring the rules are adhered to, policing the actions and behaviour on the playing field by all participants, managing and providing protection to game officials and spectators.
Penalty for Greg Burrows Sr
The BBA is issuing a five-year suspension to Burrows Sr from all local and international baseball competition in any capacity including and not limited to coach, manager, official, executive and organiser in the Bahamas.
The tournament featured over 200 players comprising of two age divisions - 12u and 16u. The Bahamas won both divisions in 2022.
Aside from the Bahamas, teams came from the following countries: Netherland Antilles, Cuba, Jamaica, Cayman Islands, Curacao, Dominican Republic, St. Eustatius, Aruba, Puerto Rico, United States and Belize.
In conclusion, the BBA understands that the foreign umpire is within his rights to file formal charges against any key principles, including the organisers involved for their lack of protection in the Babe Ruth Caribbean Baseball Championships.
The BBA also understands that this is a grave matter that can affect the Bahamas’ tourism product and, in particular, the game of baseball throughout the Bahamas when it comes to hosting any baseball games or sporting events on our soil.