Offerman gets two years of probation for minor league bat attack
HARTFORD, Conn. -- Former major league All-Star Jose Offerman was granted probation Tuesday and ordered to get anger management treatment for a bat-wielding attack during a minor league game that injured two opposing players.
Bridgeport Superior Court Judge James Ginocchio also ruled that Offerman, 38, must pay the medical expenses of Bridgeport Bluefish catcher John Nathans and pitcher Matt Beech.
Offerman, an All-Star infielder with the Dodgers in 1995 and Red Sox in 1999, had faced up to 10 years in prison on two felony assault charges. He was granted accelerated rehabilitation, a form of probation that will allow the charges to be dismissed after two years if he abides by the judge's orders.
Prosecutor Brian Kennedy argued that the assaults were too serious for Offerman to receive probation, but agreed with the judge and defense lawyers that Offerman was unlikely to commit similar offenses in the future.
"The act of swinging the bat on the baseball field and the way it was swung ... someone could have been killed," Kennedy said.
Offerman, who was trying to return to the majors, was batting for the Long Island Ducks in a game against the Bluefish in Bridgeport on Aug. 14 when Beech hit him with a fastball. Offerman charged the mound with his bat and swung at least twice, striking Beech and Nathans.
The middle finger on Beech's non-throwing hand was broken during the scuffle, and Nathans sustained a concussion.
The Atlantic League suspended Offerman indefinitely. A call seeking comment was left with the league office.
I'm real sorry for what happened. I embarrassed the game I love and I wish I could take it all back.
Offerman's lawyer, Frank Riccio, had disputed that Offerman struck the two players with his bat. He said Beech could have been injured when he punched Offerman in the head, and added Nathans appeared to grab the arm Offerman used to hold the bat.
Offerman apologized inside and outside the courtroom Tuesday.
"I'm real sorry for what happened. I embarrassed the game I love and I wish I could take it all back," Offerman told the judge, the Connecticut Post reported.
While leaving the courtroom, he added, "I would like to apologize to all the fans that were at the stadium that day, especially the children."
Riccio said Offerman gave the judge written statements from current and former major league players supporting him. Riccio declined to identify the players.
The lawyers for Beech and Nathans said they respected the judge's decision, but they are considering suing Offerman.
Nathans' attorney, Michael Koskoff, said his client has post-concussion syndrome and continues to suffer from headaches and vomiting.
"It now appears that it will be some time before he fully recovers, if ever," Koskoff said. "He is gratified that Jose Offerman has finally accepted some responsibility for what he did. We're gratified that he will be getting anger management training and therapy, which we think he sorely needs."
Nathans missed the rest of the season. Beech didn't miss a game, but was fined and suspended by the league.
The attack cleared both benches and the game was delayed about 20 minutes. Offerman, Beech and former major league pitcher Tommy John, Bridgeport's manager, were ejected. Ducks catcher Jared Price was also suspended for his role in the fight.
John Gulash, Beech's lawyer, said his client respected the judge's decision.
In a letter Gulash submitted to the court, Beech wrote that it was the first time he had seen a player go after players with a bat.
"I can only hope that Mr. Offerman ... realizes the wrongfulness of his actions and expresses his remorse publicly. Thus far, it has been a bit disturbing to see the public pronouncements of his innocence," Beech wrote.
Offerman, who lives in lower New York state, last played in the majors in 2005 with the New York Mets. He batted .273 during his 15 seasons in the majors.
Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press