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In a league designed to foster goodwill between Americans and Koreans, tensions mounted when five Taegu Lumber players were hit with pitches during Sunday’s MBC/ESPN amateur baseball league game against Taegu Equis.

When Lumber’s Mike Presley took a pitch in the back in the fourth inning, he started toward the mound, jawing at the Equis pitcher.

Lumber coaches John Behrend and Pedro Arocho intervened, but the Korean pitcher seemed intimidated, according to Behrend, and walked off the field. The rest of the team followed.

“I tried to get them to come back and finish the game but they refused,” Behrend said.

The plunkings began in the second inning after Lumber, composed of Taegu-area servicemembers, DOD civilians and dependents, fell behind the Korean team 7-0. Mack McKinley was the first to be hit, taking a pitch on the calf.

In the third, William Mattingly was hit in the side and Pedro Arocho was hit in the leg — both runners helped the Lumber rally for six runs, highlighted by Presley’s three-run triple.

“I don’t think anybody intentionally took [the ball] and threw at somebody,” Behrend said. “You see it in the big leagues all the time; sometimes somebody’s out there pitching, a ball may get away and somebody gets hit.”

But Behrend and the Lumber players wondered why the umpire didn’t issue any warnings and why the Korean pitcher wasn’t removed from the contest.

Then, with one out in the bottom of the fourth, Allen Nelson got hit in the side, and, after Arocho singled, Presley was drilled in the back.

“It didn’t escalate into a rhubarb, thank goodness,” Behrend said.

The Korean pitcher was not identified. According to Arocho, the Equis only put their players’ jersey numbers, not names, in the official scorebook.

“These are supposed to be friendship games,” said Luis Rios, a former Lumber player who’s now a league umpire and liaison between the league and Lumber.

Rios, a civilian working on Camp Henry, usually umpires games involving Lumber, but he said that Sunday he was assigned to a game between two Korean teams, and the Lumber-Equis game fell to a less-experienced umpire who did not speak English well.

“We could see the umpire was inexperienced, plus there was the language barrier, and I knew he probably wouldn’t understand what I was talking about,” Behrend said of approaching the umpire about the problem.

Rios said he talked with the league office, the scorer, the umpire and coaches of both sides in the aftermath of the game “and told them there should be no animosity” between any league teams.

Lumber and Equis are scheduled to meet again on July 25 at Camp Henry.

“I’ll officiate this time,” Rios said.

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Dave Ornauer has been employed by or assigned to Stars and Stripes Pacific almost continuously since March 5, 1981. He covers interservice and high school sports at DODEA-Pacific schools and manages the Pacific Storm Tracker.
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