STATEN ISLAND, NY – A Staten Island youth baseball coach is facing criminal charges after the alleged assault of an umpire earlier this month during a tournament in New Jersey.
Jerry Otero, 40, a coach with the New York Prospects travel team, turned himself into detectives at the Branchburg Township Police Department Tuesday morning, according to a statement issued hours later by the department.
Otero, who according to public records is a Great Kills resident, faces charges of third-degree aggravated assault and fourth-degree assault at a youth sporting event in connection with the June 4 incident during a 13-and-under US Amateur Baseball League ( USABL) game.
Branchburg Police said officers were dispatched to the field just after 8 pm for a report of an assault on an umpire. Upon arrival, they found the 72-year-old alleged victim bleeding from the mouth. Bystanders told police the suspect had already left the park.
The umpire told police that while officiating the game he ejected one of the coaches for using foul language. He was subsequently approached by a coach later identified as Otero, who punched him in the face. The victim suffered a fractured jaw and concussion from being struck, authorities said.
Both Otero and his team have been banned from the USABL, one of the largest youth travel baseball leagues on the East Coast, a source with knowledge of the incident told the Advance / SILive.com.
New York Prospects President Frank Cambria previously issued a statement regarding what he described as a “deeply concerning” incident.
“When has winning a plastic trophy become more important than the welfare of another human being?” wrote Cambria. “My prayers for a speedy recovery go out to this umpire and all officials that have been abused by parents who just don’t get it.”
He said he was distraught to hear that some of the families in attendance, instead of rushing to the umpire’s aid, continued to criticize the calls he had made during the game.
According to a post by the USABL on its Facebook page, even as police and EMTs were providing medical attention to the umpire, “other parents from the same team were heard shouting expletives at the umpire and saying things like, ‘He deserved it.’ ”
Cambria said Tuesday that parents he spoke with who were at the game denied the allegations.
The incident marks one of the latest violent outbursts to occur nationally as the intense focus on youth sports has formed a highly combustible and never-before-seen atmosphere of bad behavior across all levels of athletics, several experts said.
In response to the disturbing trend, New Jersey Assemblywoman Vicky Flynn (R-Monmouth) said she is planning legislation that would protect athletes, coaches and referees from unruly sideline conduct. The bill would strengthen penalties for assaulting an official and add harassment charges for spectators found to be verbally tormenting referees, NJ.com reported.
Flynn said she hopes to introduce a bill this summer.
“What we’ve been doing to curb these bad acts obviously hasn’t been working and it’s time to put an end to it – to not only protect sports officials, but also kids who are caught in the middle,” Flynn told NJ Advance Media. “This is one of the top complaints and concerns of constituents since my appointment in January, and it’s time to address these issues and make sports safe and fun for kids and young athletes again.”