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Midwest League suspends 17 for brawl
08/02/2008 12:46 AM ET
Fifteen players and both managers were suspended Friday afternoon for their roles in the July 24 benches-clearing brawl between the Peoria Chiefs and Dayton Dragons.

The fight, which left one fan hospitalized, promoted a total of 125 games in suspensions and thousands of dollars in fines. It also resulted in one of the longest suspensions in Minor League history as Chiefs right-hander Julio Castillo was suspended for 60 games.

"We wanted to go as quick as we could, but we also wanted to be as fair as possible," said Midwest League president George Spelius, who levied the suspensions. "This was a very important thing and we went through that DVD I don't know how many times. You could see people were pushing and taking swings at each other, but we could not identify them."

Seven Chiefs players received three-game suspensions and were fined $150 for their involvement in the fracas. The suspensions take effect immediately. The rest of the team was fined $1,200 for leaving the bench once the fight began.

Eight Dragons were handed three-game suspensions and fined an undisclosed amount. Three of those bans took effect immediately, while three more will begin Aug. 5. Catcher Devin Mesoraco and outfielder Justin Reed will sit out from Aug. 8-10.

The Chiefs will pay a total of $4,600 in fines. Spelius said all fines would be given to charities within the respective communities at the conclusion of the season.

"If there's going to be bench-clearing, it's going to go to a good cause in the end," said Spelius.

Carmelo Martinez, who had been serving as interim Chiefs manager while Ryne Sandberg attended Hall of Fame activities in Cooperstown, was suspended 20 games and fined $1,500. Martinez shoved Dayton manager -- and former teammate -- Donnie Scott, causing the benches to clear. Scott was suspended three games.

"I would say if I was there it would not have happened," Sandberg said Tuesday before the Chiefs played Kane County in the first Minor League game in Wrigley Field history. "That's what I would hope."

The brunt of the punishment, however, was borne by Castillo after hit attempt at throwing a ball into the Dayton dugout ended up striking a fan in the head. No longer on the Chiefs' active roster, Castillo will serve a 60-game suspension that will continue into the 2009 season. He appeared in Montgomery County (Ohio) court on Friday after he was charged with felonious assault. Castillo was also fined $1,000 by the Midwest League.

For Sandberg, it was hearing about Castillo's situation while on the road that was most difficult.

"That's the part that doesn't sit well with me. Castillo's one of my players, he's really coming along," the Hall of Famer said. "To have this happen, to have him make a mistake like this and have his future and his life in jeopardy doesn't sit very well with me."

It is the longest suspension in recent Minor League history, 10 games longer than the punishment received by then-Devil Rays prospect Delmon Young for tossing a bat at an umpire. That incident did not serve as precedent for Castill's suspension, according to Spelius, who said he wanted to close the door for this season so Castillo could focus on his pending criminal case.

"He's got a long road in front of him, I think," Spelius added. "He's got enough on his plate, unfortunately."

On Tuesday, Sandberg said he hoped the brawl could serve as a reminder to organizations that they must educate their players to respecting the uniform when tempers escalate.

"I think the whole organization and a lot of the other organizations will take note of this and remind the guys what you can and cannot do in situations like that, because we're talking about kids here," Sandberg said. "Maybe a kid will not think that throwing a baseball in a dugout is wrong. I didn't cover that this year."

Spelius said the number of bench-clearing brawls is down from the time he began his tenure in the Midwest League 22 years ago. But there's no question this incident took on greater significance.

"I think we're all striving to make things better to try to not run in these kind of situations. Short of trying [suspensions and fines], it's very difficult," he said. "I don't think it will ever stop, but what happened a week ago this Thursday was pretty serious."

This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.