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1,000-Word Sentence : Ump-Hitter Won't Admit This Error

September 15, 1987|MARK LANDSBAUM | Times Staff Writer

Robert Foster, convicted of assaulting a 16-year-old Little League umpire, was sentenced to write a 1,000-word essay on the "proper behavior of spectators at a sporting event."

But in his epistle filed Monday in West Orange County Municipal Court, Foster, 40, of Huntington Beach, seems to lay at least part of the blame on the ump.

"This incident need not happen again, if we as spectators can be ensured that the umpires calling our games are adults, not children," Foster wrote. "I think an age limit on an official umpire should be imposed to ensure that someone's life would not be wasted."

Learning a Lesson

What has Foster, who pleaded no contest in March to assaulting volunteer umpire C.J. Ellson, learned from his experience?

"Because of the way this was handled, I've got a child who normally was involved in all school activities, both academically and physically," Foster wrote. "Now he is not doing as well in school academically and certainly is not interested in playing any more sports."

"You would never catch me on the field again," Foster concluded in the two-page, single-space essay.

Municipal Judge Michael Beecher, who imposed the unusual sentence along with a $850 fine last March, could not be reached for comment Monday. He had left the courthouse in midafternoon to prepare for a vacation out of state, court sources said.

Foster, reached at home Monday night, said he turned in the essay to a probation officer about a month ago.

Judge Didn't Comment

"He (the officer) never commented on it. . . . I don't know what he or the judge thought of it," Foster said.

Did he think the court would be satisfied by the content of his essay?

"Gee, I hope so."

On June 15, 1986, Foster marched onto the Edison High School baseball field in Huntington Beach and slugged Ellson, a Seaview Little League umpire who had made two calls against the team of Foster's 15-year-old son.

Ellson, who this year graduated from Huntington Beach's Edison High School and recently turned 18, also could not be reached for comment.

But his mother, Virginia Ellson, said Foster "has never acknowledged that he was out of line. He's always turned it around so that it was C.J. who was.

"I didn't see Mr. Foster traveling out to the umpiring classes which I took along with my son that year. I did not see him volunteer to umpire any of the games. I think a 16-, 17-year-old boy or girl who has taken the time to take the training which is 20 hours of class work . . . is as well-qualified as any adult to call the game.

"Nobody has the right to criticize the volunteer umpires until they have taken the time."

Virginia Ellson recently became president of the Seaview Little League board of directors.

"We have had any number of teen-agers serving as umpires and we have no plans to change that," she said. "That's a fairly common practice in Little League. Getting enough qualified people to umpire is probably the single most difficult job a Little League board has."

Frank Yost, Little League assistant director for the region that includes Orange County, said Monday that it is left to local leagues to determine whether minors are qualified to officiate. Yost said it is not known how many leagues must rely on minors, rather than adults, for umpire duty.

In his court-ordered essay, Foster wrote: "If you have an adult umpire, more than likely the game, whether you win or lose, you can walk away and say, 'This is an afternoon well spent.' "

He also wrote at length about motivating children by praising their efforts and helping out with their activities. But Foster also listed "the ramifications of spectators if their conduct is not agreeable with an umpire."

Number one on his list was "the cost of an attorney," followed by "cost that the court will impose on you," "several days of work missed," "several hours possible spent on negative matters by the children" and "precious time taken away from the children and family and spent on work for the city."

As part of his sentence, Foster was ordered to spend 80 hours of community service at the direction of his probation officer.

"Spectators can open the doors for the worst outcome of their entire life if they fall out of suit for the game," Foster wrote. "A spectator should be aware of a particular umpire's attitude. If you have an umpire who's in a bad mood, you can only make things worse for yourself and the kids if you say anything at all.

"Trust me, in the state of anger, you will never end up on top or accomplish anything by discussing with an umpire your beliefs. He is the man of the hour, and his judgment is the end result.

"And clearly I've proved that there is no advantage to question an umpire's call, or for that matter, anything he says."

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