April 23, 2009
Adam Minichino - [email protected]
New Hope High School baseball coach Stacy Hester was suspended Wednesday for three days and will miss his team''s Mississippi High School Activities Association Class 4A second-round playoff series against Pontotoc.
Hester, who has been the head baseball coach since 1992, said he learned of the disciplinary action taken against him Wednesday morning. He said he met with New Hope High Principal Lynn Wright and with Lowndes County School District Superintendent Mike Halford on Tuesday.
Hester said he wasn''t told why he was suspended and that he couldn''t appeal it. He declined to say what he did or what he thought he did to be suspended. He said he didn''t want to comment unless he had the approval of Wright to state his side of the story.
"They asked me not to say much more about it," said Hester, who guided New Hope to state titles in 1996, ''98, and 2003. "I am between a rock and a hard place. I really don''t want to say anything that will distract from their preparation for the game."
Halford and Wright said Wednesday night they couldn''t comment on the matter because it was a personnel issue.
Wright said he wouldn''t give Hester permission to comment about the matter.
Hester''s suspension apparently stems from an incident in the top of the seventh inning of New Hope''s game Saturday at Hernando High in the first round of the MHSAA Class 4A state playoffs. Several fans who were at the game who declined to give their names for this story gave accounts of what they saw.
With New Hope leading 4-3 with the bases loaded in the top of the seventh, Philip Tice tripled down the left-field line to score three runs. Players from the New Hope bench left the dugout area to approach home plate to congratulate their teammates.
The relay throw from the outfield then got past the catcher and the pitcher, who was backing up the play, fielded the ball and caught Tice, who was trying to score, in a rundown. Tice was tagged out between home and third.
While Hester left the third-base area to try to get his players to return to the dugout, Tice exchanged words with Hernando first baseman Cody Woodiel. Both players were ejected and upon returning to the area Hester grabbed Tice and moved him away from a possible confrontation and into the dugout.
None of the fans who attended the game and talked to The Commercial Dispatch said they saw what happened in the dugout.
New Hope (20-9) won the game to sweep the best-of-three series.
The 2008-09 MHSAA Handbook states on page 15 that any student ejected for fighting or "flagrant" unsportsmanlike conduct shall be ineligible for a minimum of two contests and must complete the Star Sportsmanship program.
On the same page, the handbook says under the subsection "Fighting" that schools can be fined $500 for that infraction. It goes on to say that a team that leaves the bench area and comes onto the playing area will be automatically ineligible for the playoffs or removed from the playoffs.
The handbook doesn''t appear to list any possible penalties against a team when its players leave the dugout area and enter a live ball area when the action is still under way.
The National Federation of High Schools says a warning to the team''s coach will be issued for a first offense when players or associated team officials leave the dugout area. The next offender in a second violation of that rule will be ejected.
Hester said assistant coaches Chris Ball, who is his son in law, Eric Guerrero, Billy Ray Lee, and Steve Younger will coach the team in his absence.
Hester said he isn''t sure if he will attend game one at 6 p.m. today in Pontotoc. Game two will be at 6 p.m. Friday in Columbus.
Game three, if needed, will be at 6 p.m. Saturday in Pontotoc.
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.