The Feel-Bad Story of the Year

Jeff · July 29, 2005 at 9:18 am · Filed Under General baseball, Off-topic ranting 

As we all know, Friday is Become Pessimistic About The Fate of Humanity Day. What better tale to start it off than this one, a sordid narrative about a Little League coach offering one of his players $25 to drill a teammate before a playoff game, the better to keep the weaker player off the field?

This would be sad and pathetic at any level of baseball, no matter what. It’s the details that make what Mark R. Downs Jr. is accused of doing all the more jaw-dropping. To wit:

* The kid who Coach Downs wanted plunked and injured was mentally disabled. Already, we’re approaching James Bond adversary level villainy.

* Keith Reese, the eight-year-old who says his coach offered him the payoff, testified that as instructed, he nailed his teammate with a throw to the groin — but the blow wasn’t hard enough, and Downs instructed him to hit him again, this time in the head.

* Downs allegedly admitted what he’d done to Reese’s father. Of course, the lawyer is disputing that. Coach’s cover stoy: The parent must have been confused from the time Downs offered a $25 bounty if anyone tagged an umpire. What? That’s your defense? He has this confused with another bounty?

Apparently, the coach had tried other strategies to keep the mentally challenged boy from playing, too, like telling his parents that certain games were cancelled. All of these are just allegations at this point, but Downs has been arraigned and will stand trial. The younger Reese’s account seems to paint a pretty damning picture.

Stupefyingly, the kid testified that Downs stiffed his little hit man! Sign up for fall league, and I’ll pay you then, ol’ Rifle Arm says the coach told him. No wonder the kid flipped on him.

Kicking down that 25 bucks might have saved him 25 years. If this story is accurate, even wearing David Byrne’s suit from the “Stop Making Sense” video, as he appears to be in the linked picture, isn’t going to generate enough sympathy to save him.

The coup de grace (or is that coup dis-grace?) comes in the last paragraph: “League organizers have said Downs won’t be allowed to coach again if he is convicted of criminal charges … Downs is not suspended and remains a coach in the league.”

Dave Bliss is probably still the most loathsome coach of the last 10 years, but if half of these allegations are true, this guy’s number two with a bullet.


109 Responses to “The Feel-Bad Story of the Year”

  1. dw on July 29th, 2005 4:44 pm

    Can somebody explain why Dave Bliss is the most loathesome coach of the last ten years?

  2. Jeff on July 29th, 2005 5:03 pm
  3. jim on July 29th, 2005 6:22 pm

    Zito was featured in an article in the national official Little League magazine earlier this year – he obviously feels a tie to his origins. Good for him, elevates his status a bit in my eyes.

    MarinerDan, anyone who would advocate punishing the 8 yr old (who committed his heinous act during warmup throws, BTW) for being manipulated by a complete asshat adult, should be kept far away from children of any kind.

  4. John D. on July 29th, 2005 8:01 pm

    [Hope this isn’t a repeat.] This reminds me of the BEN CHRISTENSEN incident. * The incident caused BP’s Dave Pease to write the following column:
    (Those guys don’t seem to realize that that thing is dangerous.)
    *Christensen, BTW, is now a Mariner farmhand.

  5. MarinerDan on July 29th, 2005 8:13 pm

    Jim, in your strange world, anyone who advocates that a child who deliberately throws a ball at another child’s head should be punished “should be kept far away from children of any kind.” At the same time, you argue that a man who paid a child to throw a ball at another child’s head should be “punished” by being forced to work with yet more children.

    Boy, am I glad we don’t live in your world.

  6. troy on July 29th, 2005 9:29 pm

    104, Christenson is not a Mariner farmhand. He through all of 8.2 innings for San Antonio in 2004 and then was cut. Last I knew he was back in the Cubs organization, but he may or may not still be with them.

  7. troy on July 29th, 2005 9:32 pm

    106 shoud read “threw.” Dang homonyms.

  8. Itea on July 29th, 2005 11:47 pm

    The idea that the 8-year-old should be prosecuted is absurd. Thinking an 8-year-old should be criminally prosecuted for anything, even intentional murder, is ignorant of how humans develop.

    Mad props for Barry Zito.

    Dave Bliss is Bible-thumping hypocritical scum of the worst kind, and if you want to argue that _he_ should have been prosecuted, I wouldn’t be the one to disagree with you.

    As a news story, this is nominally depressing, but despite the pathos I don’t think it’s that big a deal. There are ~300 million Americans, and the fact that there are some bad apples among us isn’t surprising. Because everyone who hears this story sympathizes with the hurt kid and despises the coach, it’s almost unifying. It bothers me a lot more when bad things happen and nobody seems to give a crap – I could point out some obvious political examples, but then another argument would probably ensue.

    It does seem ridiculous that the coach is still a coach. It seems that even just what he has acknowledged is enough for decent parents to want him far away from their children.

  9. DONNA on September 7th, 2005 6:39 am

    Disgusting!! But totally believable. I’ve watched the coaches of my nephew’s LL team a time or two. This year’s coach is about winning! and nothing else. This is in contrast to the father of my nephew’s best friend who often coaches his teams in several sports. His focus is on teaching the boys to play, to have fun and to be great sportsmen. It’s the coaches and parents who act like such idiots and ruin the game. OF COURSE he should be SUSPENDED. What nut would want their kid on his team?? Only one who wants to win as badly as he…