Don?Allen has never felt the need to go on to the field at Bowman Field as a security guard for the Williamsport Crosscutters. But what the Lycoming County constable witnessed during Thursday's game against Batavia was beyond any baseball argument he has witnessed in nearly a decade of working for the team.
But when Muckdogs manager Dann Bilardello got into a heated argument with home plate umpire Sam Vogt, Allen felt that the argument went beyond a baseball argument. Bilardello allegedly bumped Vogt and Allen said the language Bilardello was spouting was beyond acceptable for a "family environment."
Allen said he came on to the field during the argument to try and defuse the situation.
"(The argument) escalated and escalated and escalated, and this being a family place, the language was terrible," Allen said in a phone interview Friday night. "It got to the point in my mind where I?thought the umpire let it get out of control. I?went out to see if I?could help. My goal was to defuse it and get (Bilardello) off the field and get the noise down. I?did not know that I should not have been out there."
It is against New York-Penn League rules for a member of security to be on the field unless a fan runs on the field. It's a rule Allen was unaware of.
"It changed the situation," said Gabe Sinicropi, the Cutters Vice President of Marketing and Public Relations. "It took it from arguing with the umpire to arguing why that person was on the field. It was no longer a manager mad at the umpire."
Immediately after seeing the security guard leap the railing and approach the situation, Batavia pitching coach Roger Lafrancois joined in the argument, which shifted from the call at home plate to why the security guard was on the field. Then, sensing the situation was reaching its boiling point, Williamsport manager Andy Tracy did something that might have shocked the 1,324 fans in attendance by racing across the field to intervene, protecting what he called "the integrity of the game."
"It was going to get ugly and that's why I stepped in there," Tracy said. "It was a matter of the integrity of the game. Things get out of hand when you're arguing and when you see somebody on the field that shouldn't be it sets things off."
"We were all kind of in shock at what was happening and Andy got there first," Sinicropi said. "Obviously, in all of our years nothing like that has ever happened, at least in my 25 years."
New York-Penn League President Ben Hayes reviewed video of the incident and suspended Allen for the rest of the season. When Allen was informed by Crosscutters General Manager Doug Estes that he had been suspended, Allen chose to quit his job as Crosscutters security instead.
"I never, never saw the need to go on the field before," said Allen, who said he never pulled out his Taser during the situation. "I?watch a lot of games and see a player run up to the umpire all the time and holler and scream and then go back. It never got to this point before. I've never seen anything like this."
Sinicropi did speak with Allen after the game about the situation.
"We just tried to make sure that he knew what was correct and what he should have done," Sinicropi said. "He's long-time employee and he's been here many years. Nothing like that has happened. Certainly there have been arguments on the field, but nothing like that has ever happened."
"What happened was not the way he was trained or it was supposed to happen," Sinicropi said. "It's just an unfortunate incident and it's over and done with on our side."
It was a very unusual situation, and if anything good managed to slip its way through, it was the compassion Tracy showed for the opposition's coaches by attempting to defuse the situation.
Tracy has been around the game long enough to know its written and unwritten rules. And intervening between and umpire, security guard and opposing coach might not even be a part of those rules.
"Even if I was a player and someone came up next to me (that wasn't supposed to be on the field), I might have lost it," Tracy said. "I'm sure he was surprised, because the argument was on the field. We don't come into the stands and we're not supposed to."
Regardless, it was an impressive show of level-headedness by Tracy. And, just to add a little more positives to the bizarre situation, Tracy even argued a call in the top of the ninth, just a few minutes after the disagreement cooled.
In Tracy's challenge, he displayed the same stern level-headed approach he used to help defuse the situation in the bottom of the eighth.
"I just wanted to get in there and cool the situation," Tracy said of breaking up the argument. "I don't know if I was overstepping my bounds, but I went in as a person in baseball, not as a visiting manager or home manager."
Tracy's brief questioning of the ninth inning call, began as an intense battle between a manager and umpire, but ended with a quick smile and trot back to the Cutters dugout. No ejections. No belly bumping. Not even a grain of dirt kicked at the feet of the umpire.
"It was something I've never seen in the long time I've played," Tracy said. "I've never seen a security guard come onto the field unless there's s an all out brawl."
He continued by saying, "It was an unusual situation and it was unfortunate."
"It was an unfortunate situation and we've apologized to everyone involved," Sinicropi said. "It's certainly not the protocol we follow here."
Allen said the reason he chose to resign was because of the double standard that seemed to be in play. He's had to ask people who become unruly or obscene with their language to leave the ballpark in the past because it is supposed to be a family environment.
He said by allowing Bilardello to go on an obscenity-laced tirade, it was going against the standards the Crosscutters hold their fans to.
"I don't care if they're punching each others' faces off, but the language was atrocious," Allen said. "People werehigh-fiving me and women stopped up by the gate and said they felt safe. I?got all kinds of compliments for taking care of it. The league didn't see it that way."