One Small Town and the Death of Baseball and Innocence

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One Small Town and the Death of Baseball and Innocence

While browsing the Internet for baseball related information to feed my insatiable appetite for such,  stumbled across an article from ESPN’s Outside the Lines that outlined the story of some truly horrible goings on in the small town of Wilson, NY.  I suggest that you read that story before you read this editorial.   It is the insane story of two young JV baseball players who were beaten and sexually assaulted. 

This crime did not take place at the hands of some nightmarish lurker, but instead, the alleged perpetrators where other players!

The families of the boys involved are trying to keep the identities of the two young victims secret.  In shocking fashion, the town has become split over who they believe, and further polarized by the idea that the two coaches for the team, Thomas Baia and William Atlas, are being charged with child endangerment for allowing the assaults to take place.

The events took place on the bus ride home from an away game.  According the story, young JV players knew these bus rides to be hellish–hazing was very common and no one seems to be denying it. 

During this particular ride, two JV students were dragged to the back of the bus by older players where kicked and punched, and, (as the two young men eventually told their parents) had various objects inserted into their rectums, including a cell phone.

There are so many unbelievable elements to this story that it really seems to matter that the most believable part seems to be the claims of the victims.  Anyone who has lived through their teen age years, particularly males, can certainly imagine the psychological torture that these young boys have set in motion for themselves by coming forward with these accusations. 

In the best case scenario (if there is such a thing here) these boys have years of insults and bullying to look forward to as the kids who got raped on the school bus.  The idea that two normal, healthy, athletic young men would lie about such a thing knowing that such a lie would heap misery on them seems ludicrous.

Yet, some people seem to think this is the case.  Town people have posted signs around with saying like “Don’t believe the rumors,” hoping to dispel the stigma the story has brought to their suddenly media filled community.

No one seems to argue that the boys were dragged to the back of the bus.  Most agree that this method of hazing was commonly known.  Other boys have admitted that they saw the victims being taken to the back and then returning.  The sexual assault, however, is what people don’t want to wrap their minds around. 

In a shocking reminder of why attorneys are portrayed so negatively, Kevin Shelby, the counsel for the accused (an 18-year-old and two others 16) argues that the incident amounts to nothing more than “goosing” and that this incidental contact should have no sexual context assigned to it.

He claims that the alleged victims’ pants remained on throughout the incident, and so questions how anything could have been inserted in their rectums.

Baia and Atlas insist they had no idea that anything was going on.  Their defense and that of those who support them is that two coaches cannot watch a bus full of teens and possibly see everything.  The stupidity of this argument is painful!  It seems to be agreed upon by all involved that both coaches sat in the front on bus rides. 

Why?  If you are going to have trouble supervising the players, why would you both sit together?  Moreover, how could two intelligent adults be on a bus where students are being dragged out of their seats and taken to the back of the bus by force and never realize it was happening? 

Rites of passage and hazing are very common in sports and you can find stories from middle school right up to the professional ranks about such activities.  But how can anyone explain this particular perversion of the ritual?  When did touching the rear-end of one male by another, let alone sodomizing someone with a cell phone, become anything but repulsive and abhorrent in the eyes of mainstream teens? 

And lost in all of the arguments, accusations, explanations, and the ensuing media frenzy is that the remainder of the baseball season was cancelled.  Much more importantly, two young men who’d dreamed of playing their favorite sport have not only been robbed of their innocence and dignity, but in all likelihood have been robbed of something more.  How will either ever be able to think about baseball again without remembering that 30 minute bus ride?

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