Source: Umps from U.S. fear for safety

Updated: January 18, 2010, 7:17 AM ET
By Enrique Rojas | ESPNdeportes.com

A group of American umpires working in the Dominican winter league resigned from their positions Sunday and were to leave the country because they feared for their safety in the wake of an incident in which ex-major leaguer Jose Offerman swung at one of them, a source in the Dominican Baseball League's front office said.

Daniel Rayburn, Jayson Bradley, Justin Vogel and Barry Larson gave notice Sunday to the Dominican League, or LiDom, after an incident between Rayburn and Offerman, the manager for Tigres del Licey who tried to punch the umpire in a game Saturday night against the Cibao Giants.

"They left after filing their report of Saturday's incident," the source said.

Threats were apparently made by fans as the umpires were exiting the baseball field at the end of the game, according to the source.

Offerman, who had come on to the field and was arguing over the ejection of one of his players, was arrested and taken to a police station close to Quisqueya Stadium and released two hours later. He could be charged with a battery count if Rayburn decides to file charges against him.

Offerman apologized in a statement Sunday.

"My attitude during the events that took place during the playoff series between Gigantes and Licey was unjustifiable," he said.

He continued: "Of the aforementioned incident between umpire Daniel Rayburn and myself, which happened during a heated discussion with personal insults which are difficult to tolerate, it is something I'm terribly sorry for.

"I wish to express my most profound apologies to my family, to my faithful followers, to all Dominican sports fans, to our team's fans, to the executives of Tigres del Licey, to the Colegio de Arbitros y Anotadores [Umpire and Scorers Association], to the National Association of Baseball Leagues and to the Dominican Republic Professional Baseball League for my inappropriate conduct, against ethics and generally accepted principles of our sport."

Leonardo Matos-Berrido, president of the Dominican League, was present at Saturday's game and saw the incident.

"It's unheard of that passion in sports reaches levels on intolerance and violence in professional sports as exhibited by a successful athlete, who many Dominicans admire and love," he said. "The Dominican League, its associates and executives offer our national fans and all the Dominican people, who strongly support baseball, our excuses for this regrettable event."

Tigres del Licey general manager Fernando Ravelo echoed Matos-Berrido's words, but said he saw the television replay and it seemed that Rayburn tripped and was not hit by Offerman's fist.

"TV replays show that Rayburn falls [to the ground] when he loses his balance, but not because Offerman hit him," Ravelo said.

Offerman has had a violent incident in baseball in the past, when he hit catcher John Nathans with a bat after being hit by a pitch during an Atlantic Independent League game in 2007. He was sentenced to undergo anger-management therapy and was hit with a $4.8 million civil suit by Nathans, who said he was unable to continue his professional career because of Offerman.

"I appeal to the generosity and indulgence of the public and the Dominican society … with the understanding that I'm a citizen who is respectful and a firm believer of civilized coexistence," Offerman said.

Enrique Rojas is a reporter for ESPNdeportes.com.

Enrique Rojas is a reporter and columnist for ESPNdeportes.com and ESPN.com.

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