Pitcher Suspended in Offerman Incident

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by John Christoffersen
Associated Press

August 22, 2007

NEW HAVEN, CONN. — The minor league pitcher involved in a brawl with a bat-wielding Jose Offerman has been suspended for his role in the incident.

The independent Atlantic League also fined Matt Beech of the Bridgeport Bluefish an undisclosed amount. Beech planned to appeal, said his attorney, John Robert Gulash.

Long Island Ducks catcher Jared Price also was fined and suspended two games.

Beech hit Offerman with a pitch Aug. 14 and the former major league All-Star infielder, who had homered in his first at-bat, charged the mound. During the ensuing melee, the middle finger on Beech's on-throwing hand was broken and Bridgeport catcher John Nathans suffered a concussion.

Offerman, playing for Long Island, was charged with two counts of second-degree assault and is due in Bridgeport Superior Court on Thursday. He was suspended by the league pending the resolution of his legal case.

An attorney for Offerman said Tuesday his client should not have been arrested for the attack, challenging charges that he struck Beech and Nathans with his bat.

"I think a mistake was made by him charging the mound with a bat in his hand," attorney Frank Riccio said. "But after that, everything is a blur."

Riccio said Beech could have been injured when he punched Offerman in the head, adding Nathans appeared to grab the arm Offerman was using to hold the bat.

"We dispute the fact that any contact was made with the bat," Riccio said. "It's as likely these two players got injured in the melee that followed the incident as opposed to the baseball bat incident.

"I think baseball polices itself very well. I think it should be left to baseball to decide what should be done."

Nathans has been sidelined since the incident and may miss the remainder of the season.

"Our client remembers getting hit in the head with the bat," said Michael Koskoff, Nathans' attorney. "He felt the bat hit his head."

Beech's attorney, John Robert Gulash, said it was a serious incident either way.

"My only observation would be is Mr. Offerman indicating he simply attempted to commit an assault in the second degree as opposed to actually fully completing an assault in the second degree?" Gulash said.

Beech said after the incident: "He swung the first time at my head and it was kind of like a helicopter follow-through, and I believe that is when John got hit in the back of the head.

Lt. Jim Viadero, a Bridgeport police spokesman, said the pitcher and catcher said they were hit by the bat.

"Just because you're involved in a sporting event doesn't alleviate the fact that you have to obey the laws of the state of Connecticut," Viadero said.

There were no plans to file charges against the pitcher or catcher, Viadero said.

Offerman said afterward that "it was one those moments that you want to forget." He said he just snapped and didn't intend to hurt anyone.

"If that (hitting Nathans) happened (it was because), he run to me, I don't run to him and if he got hit it was because he tried to run behind me and take the bat and that was an accident," Offerman said the day after the incident.

The 38-year-old Offerman last played in the majors in 2005 with the New York Mets. He batted .273 during his 15 seasons in the majors and was an All-Star infielder in 1995 with the Dodgers and in 1999 with Boston.

Offerman hit a home run on the first pitch of the game. Next time up, Beech hit him in the leg with a pitch. Beech acknowledged he was trying to pitch Offerman inside but said he wasn't aiming to hit him.

The attack cleared both benches and the game was delayed about 20 minutes. Offerman, Beech and Bridgeport manager and former major league pitcher Tommy John were ejected.

Beech pitched Sunday and began serving his suspension Monday, while his team was playing at Long Island, said Nick Razzette, a team spokesman. He likely will finish serving it before his next scheduled start Aug. 24, Razzette said.

A message seeking comment was left with the league.

Associated Press writer Pat Eaton-Robb contributed to this report.