Attorney unsure if Offerman hit pitcher, catcher with bat

Updated: August 21, 2007, 5:15 PM ET
Associated Press

NEW HAVEN, Conn. -- An attorney for former major-league All-Star Jose Offerman said Tuesday his client should not have been arrested for an attack in the minors, challenging charges that he struck a pitcher and catcher with his bat.

Jose Offerman
AP Photo/Connecticut Post, Christian AbrahamBridgeport Bluefish catcher John Nathans, right, tried to stop Jose Offerman from hitting Bluefish pitcher Matt Beech with a bat. Beech broke a finger and Nathans was hit in the head in the attack.
Offerman was playing for the Long Island Ducks when he allegedly hit the opposing catcher and pitcher Tuesday night at Bridgeport. He was indefinitely suspended the next day.

Offerman was originally due in Bridgeport Superior Court on Thursday. His appearance was continued until Sept. 24.

Offerman's attorney, Frank Riccio, said he was still talking to witnesses, looking at photographs and gathering evidence but did not believe his client struck the players with a bat.

"I think a mistake was made by him charging the mound with a bat in his hand," Riccio said. "But after that, everything is a blur."

Riccio said the pitcher could have been injured when he punched Offerman in the head, while the catcher appeared to grab the arm Offerman was using to hold the bat.

"We dispute the fact that any contact was made with the bat," Riccio said. "It's as likely these two players got injured in the melee that followed the incident as opposed to the baseball bat incident."

Riccio said his client should never have been arrested.

"I think baseball polices itself very well," Riccio said. "I think it should be left to baseball to decide what should be done."

Offerman was charged with two counts of second-degree assault and is due back in a Connecticut court Thursday.

Bridgeport Bluefish catcher John Nathans sustained a concussion that may sideline him for the rest of the season. Bluefish pitcher Matt Beech had a broken finger on his non-throwing hand.

"Our client remembers getting hit in the head with the bat," said Michael Koskoff, Nathans' attorney. "He felt the bat hit his head."

Beech's attorney, John Robert Gulash, said it was a serious incident either way.

"My only observation would be, is Mr. Offerman indicating he simply attempted to commit an assault in the second degree as opposed to actually fully completing an assault in the second degree?" Gulash said.

Beech said after the incident: "He swung the first time at my head and it was kind of like a helicopter follow-through, and I believe that is when John got hit in the back of the head."

Lt. Jim Viadero, a Bridgeport police spokesman, said the pitcher and catcher said they were hit by the bat.

"Just because you're involved in a sporting event doesn't alleviate the fact that you have to obey the laws of the state of Connecticut," Viadero said.

There were no plans to file charges against the pitcher or catcher, Viadero said.

Beech received a three-game suspension, according to a statement on the Atlantic League Web site. Gulash said his client would appeal.

The league also suspended Ducks catcher Jared Price for his role in the fight. The Atlantic League's regular season runs through Sept. 16.

Offerman said afterward that "it was one those moments that you want to forget." He said he just snapped and didn't intend to hurt anyone.

"If that [hitting Nathans] happened [it was because] he run to me, I don't run to him and if he got hit it was because he tried to run behind me and take the bat and that was an accident," Offerman said the day after the incident.

The 38-year-old Offerman last played in the majors in 2005 with the New York Mets. He batted .273 during his 15 seasons in the majors and was an All-Star infielder in 1995 with the Los Angeles Dodgers and in 1999 with the Boston Red Sox.

Offerman hit a home run on the first pitch of Tuesday's game. The next time up, Beech hit him in the leg with a pitch.

Offerman charged the mound with his bat. Nathans tried to intervene and was struck in the head. Beech, who formerly pitched in the majors, wound up with a broken middle finger on his right hand.

Beech acknowledged he was trying to pitch Offerman inside but said he wasn't aiming to hit him.

The attack cleared both benches and the game was delayed about 20 minutes. Offerman, Beech and Bridgeport manager and former major-league pitcher Tommy John were ejected. Nathans is still suffering from the concussion and has been advised by his doctor to avoid any stressful physical activity until the symptoms clear, Koskoff said Friday.

Koskoff said the 28-year-old Nathans is optimistic he'll return. Follow-up tests revealed no bleeding in the brain, he said.

Beech pitched Sunday and began serving his suspension Monday, while his team was playing at Long Island, said Nick Razzette, a team spokesman. He will likely finish serving it before his next scheduled start Aug. 24, Razzette said.

A message seeking comment was left with the league.


Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press

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