Groundskeeper ejected after dispute about tarp

Posted: Sunday, May 25, 2003

Bill Butler wanted to protect his field. Instead, a tarpaulin dispute turned heated and he became part of baseball lore a groundskeeper who got ejected.

''It was a little bit shocking,'' Butler said by telephone Saturday. ''I couldn't really believe it.''

Players and managers are regularly tossed from ballgames, and even mascots and broadcasters have been thrown out. But there was no apparent record of anything like this.

The episode happened Friday night in Lakewood, N.J., where the BlueClaws were playing Kannapolis in the Class A South Atlantic League.

The weather had been spotty for a few days and by the seventh inning, with manager Buddy Biancalana's Lakewood team leading 3-0, it was raining pretty hard at the home of the Philadelphia Phillies' affiliate.

Butler, a three-time Groundskeeper of the Year in the minors and working his 13th season in the business, said he told umpires Brandon Cooney and Steve Cummings it was time to cover the field.

''Both managers didn't want to risk getting their players hurt,'' Butler said. ''The field was saturated from three days of rain. I was yelling out to the umps and signaling.''

Butler then walked onto the field to talk with the umpires but was rebuffed, he said.

''They didn't want to hear it. They said it was their decision,'' he said.

That's when Butler pressed his point. As the umpires huddled, Butler came back out, this time carrying a copy of the local radar map.

''It got kind of heated and they told me I was interfering with their meeting,'' Butler said. ''That's when they told me to leave.''

Butler exited, and moments later the field was covered before another pitch was thrown. The game never resumed, and Butler spent awhile tending to his field.

BlueClaws public relations director Neil Solondz said he checked with the Hall of Fame, which found records of several unusual ejections, though none involved a groundskeeper.

''A few years from now, I'm sure a lot of people won't believe it,'' Butler said.

When Butler returned to the park Saturday, he naturally got razzed by members of the BlueClaws front office. Some of them playfully asked whether he was banned from a staff meeting.

Lakewood general manager Geoff Brown backed Butler, saying he wanted to preserve the field.

''I guess Bill won't be mowing the lawn for this umpiring crew any time soon,'' Brown said.

Cooney and Cummings were in Salisbury, Md., on Saturday night for a game between Delmarva and Hagerstown.



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