FORKED RIVER, NJ – Racial tensions in America are getting pretty bad, but rarely is the sport of youth softball impacted by what goes on in the world around us. Maybe those days are coming to and end as tensions this weekend at the Phoenix Rising softball tournament in Forked River between a diverse New York City team and a team from Egg Harbor Township. During that game between girls mostly 15 and 18 years of age, there was a close play at home plate. It was a bang-bang play.
The girl from the New York City based OLS Lady Twins softball team was out at home plate, but the team’s coach decided to challenge the call with the umpire.
According to Jose Nieves, Director of the OLS Softball program, a few of the OLS players were talking amongst themselves in the dugout when the Egg Harbor Township coach confronted them about their conversation. Another OLS coach asked the Egg Harbor coach not to address his players directly and if there was an issue he needs to bring it to an adult, not the girls directly.
From there, the situation escalated and the Egg Harbor coach allegedly told the OLS coach he can say whatever he wants, then the parents began yelling at the coach to “Cut it out” and the coach, told the team, “Go back where you belong.”
“During our 4th game with EHT Tornadoes their coach if you listen carefully stated to our coach ‘go back where you came from’ prior to yelling at one of our players from across the dugout,” said mom Lilah Mejia. “I never would have imagined that I would experience racism on the field in this matter. What was more disturbing was the referee and the organizers for Phoenix Rising Tournament did nothing.”
After about twenty minutes, the assistant coach on the Egg Harbor team was removed from the tournament.
“Our team of players AND parents were on the verge of an all-out brawl,” Mejia said.
Nieves said he tried reaching out on Facebook to the EHT Tornadoes through their Facebook page to talk about the matter, but claims he was blocked by the team. “I tried connecting with EHT over Facebook but they blocked me when they saw which organization I belonged to,” Nieves said.
Nieves said his Little League program was chartered to provide baseball and softball opportunities for disadvantaged inner-city children and teens. “We’re mostly Hispanic. Our players don’t live in very good neighborhoods. We like to take our players out of that environment and put them on nicer fields in these tournaments. Unfortunatley, this happens.”
We have reached out to the organizers of the event and the opposing team’s organization and have not received a response.