Players’ language in foul ground



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Going to an Alaska Baseball League game at Chugiak’s Loretta French is a uniquely-Alaskan experience that shouldn’t be missed. From the field’s mountain-ringed scenery to the free admission to the signature hill beyond left field, our local diamond has proven itself as a welcome addition to the historic collegiate summer league.

A visit to the park is almost like taking a step back into a simpler time, when ballparks were community meeting places where the entire town came to root on the home team. On the fields near the park, children run and play, tossing the ball around in imitation of their heroes out on the big field. Then there’s the fans in lawn chairs, an announcer with a golden voice and more crushed peanut shells than an elephant’s rumpus room.

The intimate nature of the park is also a big draw. Because the field — which up until this year was used solely as an American Legion park — is ringed with just a single chain link fence, fans are able to get literally feet from the players, close enough to hear every grunt, scratch and spit.

And therein lies one of the big drawbacks of our rustic local park.

During a recent game, several young fans were standing near the right field line, squinting into the midsummer sun and watching the action in the visiting bullpen. But rather than ooh and ahh at the action, the kids giggled and squealed at what they were seeing — or rather hearing — out on the field.

Because Loretta French is still a work in progress, the team bullpens are located on the field of play. This means that, during any given game, there are about a dozen players who sit on a bench located just inside the fence and only feet from the fans. However, because they’re used to being somewhat isolated on the field, it seems the players haven’t quite picked up on the implications of this intimacy.

The kids watching the action in the bullpen were giggling because of the language that was coming out of the ‘pen. Although most of what the players could be overheard talking about was relatively benign, almost none of it had anything to do with baseball. And the majority of it was peppered with words that would not pass the muster either in polite company or a family newspaper.

Suffice to say, some of what was said was profane and offensive, and not at all in keeping with the park’s otherwise family atmosphere.

It’s understandable (if not expected) for college athletes to use swear words while on the field of play. But the conversations that were going on in the bullpen were unacceptable — and rather shocking when you consider that the players must know that they can be overheard.

Steps to give the players some privacy at the park — including tarps to partially conceal the dugouts — have been taken by club officials. And plans to fix the bullpen situation are already in the works.

But the players who spend their time sitting so close to the fans need to be made more aware of the impact their words can have on young fans. No parent wants to bring their kid to a family-friendly baseball game only to have that child subjected to the kind of language and conversation that should be reserved for barstool bull sessions — not our backyard bullpens.

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