By now, most of you have heard about the situation involving the Lakeside High School baseball team.
Donnie Fetter did a terrific job tracking down the details for this paper. When I first got wind of it early Tuesday, I knew this was going to be a big story, but at that time details were still sketchy. As a matter of fact, even when the news broke on the Austin Rhodes Show on Tuesday afternoon, I still did not have all the particulars.
Well, we now know this: Four members of the Lakeside baseball team have been booted from the squad for consuming alcohol on the team bus. The players will face the school tribunal on Tuesday, where they could possibly be sent to the alternative school for the remainder of the school year.
Lakeside traveled to South Effingham on March 9 for a region game. The game was delayed because of rain, and once they got on the field South Effingham won a lopsided affair 15-3, snapping the Panthers’ six-game
On top of the long trip, rain delay and disappointing loss, Lakeside coach Jay Matthews also had to drive the team bus because the scheduled driver was not available.
Because Matthews was driving late at night after such a long day, one of the Lakeside assistant coaches sat up front to help keep him awake. Back in my day, the coaches all sat up front together on road trips. (I write this because some have argued that the coaches should have been scattered throughout the bus to monitor the players.)
As they arrived back at Lakeside after 1:30 a.m. March 10, the players rushed off the bus. Looking back, perhaps this should have raised a red flag, but at the time the coaches did not think much of it. As the coaches went through the process of making sure the trash was off the bus, they noticed a huge mess. It was dark and they were unsure what it was. They were mad that the players had made a mess, but cleaned it up.
Apparently, a couple of players let the coaches know that the mess on the bus was vomit. The following day, the junior varsity had a game at the school. A few of the players were questioned further about the bus trip home and admitted that some players were drinking alcohol.
Coach Matthews was alerted. He then contacted Assistant Principal Tim Reeve. Athletic Director Donnie Burch was also informed. Matthews was instructed to get to the bottom of what really happened.
The Panthers had a 5 p.m. practice scheduled. At the practice, the players were questioned about what took place. Four players came forward and admitted to drinking alcohol on the bus. Those players were told to go home and that school administration would deal with them on Monday.
It is not clear if the players were kicked off the team at the practice, or if they were formally told they were off the team later, but either way, they will not be on the team for the remainder of the season. Given that two of the players are seniors, their prep baseball careers are over.
On Tuesday morning, the school contacted the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office to make them aware of what occurred. This past week, the four were charged as minors in possession of alcohol.
Who’s to blame?
It seems like everyone differs on who’s to blame. I even had a parent criticize the coaches for not sweeping it under the rug.
Yet had the coaches not come forward and it was found out that the incident occurred, some of the same parents would be calling for their heads.
Matthews and his staff handled this incident appropriately. Some are saying the coaches should have known the players were drinking. By all accounts, the bus ride was quiet. The team had just suffered their worst loss of the season, and anyone who has ever played sports knows how bad those bus rides back home can be. Combine that with Matthews having to drive and the long rain delays causing the team to get back so late, well, it is simply Monday morning quarterbacking to blame the coaches here.
I also differ with many who say that school administration waited too long to contact authorities. Perhaps they should have contacted law enforcement Monday afternoon, and some people think the sheriff’s office should have been brought in over the weekend. Yet at that point only the coaches had talked to the players. I completely understand school administrators wanting to talk to the parties involved and get the complete story first. The players had admitted wrongdoing and there was no evidence to destroy, so for me the timetable just was not a big issue.
So that leaves the players. I am not saying condemn the kids, but the bottom line is they did this; not the coaches, not the school administration, and not the media.
I have heard people say this is not a big deal, which is always followed by “In my day…” Well, I am sorry. I played three sports in high school and one in college. I have been on hundreds of bus trips, and at no point was it OK to drink alcohol on a team bus. This is not something we needed to be warned about. It is common sense. I am not saying I am perfect. Lord knows I did plenty of stupid things in my day. But to blame anyone other than the players involved is not right.
At the same time, let’s keep in mind that the players are already facing stiff penalties. They do not need to be ridiculed. They made a mistake and they stepped up and admitted it. They will not be able to play the sport they love.
I do think they should be suspended, but I hope they are not sent to the alternative school for the restof the school year.
Losing baseball, having the public embarrassment, knowing they let their team down and facing criminal charges is pretty severe already. I hope that is taken into consideration when the players go before the hearing officer.
Let’s move on.
Four young men made a mistake. They are learning a tough lesson.
Hopefully, this also will be a lesson to all the young athletes in the area.
I am not saying there will never be another player to screw up, or even drink on a team bus, but I would be willing to bet it does not happen in Columbia County this year. Maybe that will be the good that can come out of such a bad situation.