Monday, July 28, 2008

Book Him!

I got into a seriously heated discussion the other night about the case of Julio Castillo. He's the minor-league pitcher facing felony assault charges after an on-field brawl in Dayton, Ohio last week.

If you haven't seen the video clip, take a look (and watch for #32 to flash across your screen, throwing a baseball at the opposing dugout from point-blank range):

Unfortunately for Castillo, his velocity was good but his location stunk. His throw drilled a fan in the head, sending the man to the hospital. Of course, you can count on a civil lawsuit, but the question I debated the other night was this: is it appropriate for Castillo to face criminal charges?

I take this position: absolutely. His behavior was at the very least criminally reckless. The fact that he was wearing a uniform and on a baseball field doesn't excuse it.

But several people with whom I discussed the matter argued otherwise. Their position: he was involved in a baseball game. Let baseball handle it.

Sorry, but I can't go there. For one thing, if we take the position that anything an athlete does on the playing field is off-limits to the law, we open a Pandora's box. What if a javelin-thrower decides to heave one into the crowd?

Look, I don't want to see the sheriff wade into every hockey fight or baseball scuffle. Even if a pitcher purposely hits a batter or a linebacker clotheslines a wide receiver, the rules of the game suffice.

But there is a line. It may be hard to define precisely, but just like Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart said of hard-core porn, we know it when we see it. And I don't see how anyone can think Julio Castillo was on the right side of that line.

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