DENVER (AP) — The 13-year-old umpire caught in the middle of a brawl at a youth baseball game got a big league show of support Sunday.
Josh Cordova and his family were invited to Coors Field by major league umpire Chris Guccione to see the Los Angeles Dodgers play the Colorado Rockies. Guccione, who’s from Salida, Colorado, reached out to Josh after hearing about a game between 7-year-olds that deteriorated into an adult-fueled brawl on the field over a disputed call. Video of the fight at Westgate Elementary School in Lakewood went viral.
"It was scary, not only for me but for the 7-year-olds there," Josh said as he sat next to Guccione in the Rockies’ dugout before the game. "I don’t want them to have the idea that baseball is like that. I want them to have the belief that baseball is a great game and for them to learn to love the game, just as I have."
Guccione, a big league ump for 20 years, said he started umpiring at about the same age as Josh but had never seen or experienced anything like the all-out fighting among parents, coaches or spectators that Josh had witnessed.
"I thought it was a perfect opportunity to reach out to Josh and not only to him but his family and to say to him, ‘I’m proud of you and I’m rooting for you and what you did is the right thing,’" Guccione said. "I’m super happy for him, and I wanted to encourage him to keep going forward."
Josh participated in the umpires’ pregame conference, and he delivered the lineup cards at home plate to Rockies manager Bud Black and Dodgers manager Dave Roberts, both of whom had hugs and encouraging words for Josh.
"For him to try to earn some extra money and umpire young kids and for it to turn out that way, I just find it very hard to justify the adults’ actions because as the role model for these young kids, there couldn’t be a worse example set," Roberts said. "So for these kids, that’s where my heart goes out, to these young kids who have to witness their parents act that way."
Guccione also gave Josh his umpire jersey and a chest protector, which Josh said he’ll start using right away to replace his old one, which is worn out.
Josh has continued to play baseball and work as an umpire. He said he was part of the crew that officiated the youth league’s championship game on Saturday. He plans to continue, he said, because of his "passion for being around the game and helping kids grow, as I did in the same organization."
The Bear Creek Junior Sports Association banned the teams involved in the June 15 fracas for the rest of the season, and Lakewood police said a dozen people have been cited for their involvement in the brawl.
Josh thanked Guccione and the many others who have contacted him with messages of support, including several parents involved in the fight.
"I’m very appreciative for everyone that’s reached out to me," he said.