Thursday, July 28, 2005
Coach offered $25 for player to hurt disabled boy
UNIONTOWN, Pa. -- A youth baseball coach on Thursday was
ordered to stand trial for allegedly promising to pay one of his
players $25 to hurt a 9-year-old mentally disabled teammate.
Eight-year-old Keith Reese testified at a preliminary hearing
that T-ball coach Mark R. Downs Jr. made the offer before a June 27
"He told me if I would hit [the teammate] in the face, he would
pay me $25," Keith said.
Reese said he had never before warmed up for a game with his
mentally disabled teammate, Harry Bowers. But on that day, he did.
His first toss hit Bowers in the groin area. As the boy walked
away, he said his coach told him to "go out there and hit him
"So I went out and hit him in the ear," Reese said.
Downs, 27, will be arraigned Sept. 15 on two counts of criminal
solicitation to commit aggravated assault and one count each of
corruption of minors, criminal conspiracy and recklessly
endangering another person.
A motive for the beaning was not discussed in court Thursday.
But the injured boy's mother had told police that the coach looked
for ways to keep her son out of games because he was not as good as
Reese's father, Keith Reese Sr., testified that the coach
admitted after the game to offering his son money to hurt the other
"He told me, 'I did something ignorant. I told [Keith] I'd give
him $25 to hit Harry in the face to take him out of the game,"'
Downs' attorney, Thomas W. Shaffer, denied the allegations.
Shaffer said the $25 comment likely referred to a previous game,
when the coach jokingly told his team he'd offer $25 to "anybody
who can line drive the ref with the ball" when he was cautioned by
The team was part of the R.W. Clark Youth Baseball League, which
ended its T-ball season earlier this month. The game was in North
Union Township, 40 miles southeast of Pittsburgh.
The younger Reese said he asked the coach for the money when the
team met at an ice cream parlor after the game, but did not receive
it. He said the coach told him he'd get $25 if he signed up for the
Bowers also took the witness stand, confirming he was hit twice,
in the groin and ear, during warm-ups.
His mother, Jennifer Bowers, told the court that the coach came
up to her afterward and suggested her son shouldn't play.
"He said the balls must be after [her son]," she testified.
Eric Forsythe, president of the R.W. Clark Youth Baseball
League, said league officials looked into accusations against Downs
before the season ended, but could not prove the coach did anything
wrong. But Forsythe said league officials did not interview either
League organizers have said Downs won't be allowed to coach
again if he is convicted of criminal charges. Shaffer said Downs is
not suspended and remains a coach in the league.