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Player Could Face Charges

Minor league infielder for Inland Empire 66ers struck pitcher from Lancaster JetHawks in the back with a bat after being hit by a pitch on Monday. He may be charged with felony assault.

August 20, 2003|Ben Bolch | Times Staff Writer

An infielder for the Inland Empire 66ers could face felony assault charges after striking a Lancaster JetHawk pitcher with a baseball bat late Monday night, sparking a 25-minute melee that resulted in the suspension of a California League game in Lancaster.

Inland Empire second baseman Evel Bastida charged the mound and struck Lancaster reliever Josh Kranawetter in the lower back after Kranawetter had hit Bastida in the back with a pitch during the 15th inning of a game Inland Empire led, 7-4. Kranawetter's previous pitch had been hit for a three-run double.

Kranawetter suffered a bruised lower back but was not seriously injured, said Tim O'Sullivan, Lancaster's director of broadcasting and media relations.

No arrests were made at the scene but the incident is being investigated and Bastida could be charged with assault with a deadly weapon, said Deputy Mark Round of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department.

Sixteen players were ejected after the skirmish, O'Sullivan said. John Oldham, supervisor of umpires for the California League, said multiple suspensions probably will be announced today but declined to comment further. Those suspensions probably will be staggered over the two weeks remaining in the regular season.

Kranawetter threw his glove at Bastida as the second baseman charged the mound, O'Sullivan said, but Bastida was undeterred, swinging the bat with both hands and hitting the reliever squarely below the tailbone.

Kranawetter dropped to the ground and remained there for two or three minutes, O'Sullivan said, while both dugouts emptied and a fracas erupted in the infield. Kranawetter eventually stood up and had to be restrained from going after Bastida.

"The adrenaline had kicked in and he wanted a piece of Bastida," O'Sullivan said.

Tempers subsided after about 10 minutes, O'Sullivan said, but then Bastida brandished another bat and an Inland Empire teammate emerged from the dugout wielding one as well. Deputies were summoned and order was restored about 15 minutes later when the teams returned to their clubhouses.

Umpires conferred with the managers and decided to suspend the game. Lancaster Manager Mike Aldrete said he was shocked by Bastida's actions and that the Cuban defector should be banned from baseball.

"I don't think he should ever play baseball for the rest of his life, at least not organized professional baseball in America," Aldrete said.

Aldrete said he and Kranawetter spoke to police after the melee. He instructed Kranawetter and other JetHawk players not to talk to reporters on Tuesday. Bastida was unavailable for comment.

Lancaster and Inland Empire, Class-A affiliates of the Arizona Diamondbacks and Seattle Mariners, respectively, are battling for the California League's Southern Division wild-card berth. They are scheduled to meet again in a three-game series starting Friday in San Bernardino, and Monday's game will be completed at that time, Oldham said.

Neither Kranawetter, 23, nor Bastida, 24, is considered a top prospect, officials from both teams said.

Bastida, who lives near Miami in the off-season, was a seventh-round selection in the 2002 amateur draft. He is batting .273 with five home runs and 32 runs batted in.

Kranawetter, selected in the 27th round of that same draft, is 2-1 with a 4.06 earned-run average for the JetHawks.

Bastida was held out of Inland Empire's game against Lake Elsinore on Tuesday, according to Ryan Seeberg, who handles media relations for the 66ers.

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Times staff writer James Lee contributed to this report.

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