Staff photographer Keith Birmingham shot this. Cantwell-Sacred Heart third base coach George Robert, center, gestures towards the home plate umpire after being tossed from the game with head coach Larry Patino looking on. The argument stemmed after a Cantwell batter was hit by a pitch, but rather than being awarded first base, the umpire called it a ball, ruling the batter didn’t make an attempt to get out of the way. On social media, there was plenty of opinion.
— Fred J. Robledo (@SGVNSports) April 20, 2016
By Aram Tolegian
Cantwell Sacred Heart High School assistant baseball coach George Robert has been suspended for two games as punishment for making an obscene gesture at an umpire in Tuesday’s 8-3 loss to Bishop Montgomery, according to a source close to the situation.
A photographer from this newspaper captured Robert flipping off the home plate umpire following an exchange in the fourth inning while the umpire was ejecting Robert.
The photo was shared through social media and caused an outpouring of concerned reaction from area fans, but also a flood of support from Robert’s supporters close to the team, many of whom felt it was a teaching moment and nothing more.
“There’s no excuse for what I did yesterday,” a tearful Robert said on Wednesday morning. “I lost my cool. I did something I shouldn’t have done. It was my mistake. I apologized to the boys. I even went and apologized to the Bishop Montgomery coaches. I am supposed to be not only a coach, but a mentor to these kids, and I messed up.
“I’m getting emotional right now, but I love this job. I love those boys. And I feel like I let them down.”
When contacted Wednesday evening for reaction about the suspension, Robert declined to comment. As did Cantwell head coach Larry Patino.
Cantwell, 15-4, is in the midst of another productive season under Patino, who has turned the Cardinals baseball program into an area power. Robert will miss games against Bishop Montgomery on Friday and St. Bernard on Apr. 28.
Robert, a U.S. Army veteran who is on permanent disability following a back injury he suffered while his Humvee was hit by an IED in Iraq, has been an assistant coach to Patino for three years.
Wednesday’s incident took place during the fourth inning. Cantwell hitter Chris Ibarra was hit by a pitch, but wasn’t awarded first base because the home plate umpire said Ibarra didn’t make an attempt to get out of the way, according to Robert. Robert said the next pitch was high and tight, too, further escalating the situation.
Robert said he later asked the umpire for an explanation but was told to get back in his coaching box. That led to an argument and in the midst of being ejected, Robert can be seen walking away from the umpire while extending his middle finger back at him.
“I just lost it,” Robert said. “I don’t know where that came from or why it came out. I was in the wrong. That’s a bad example. Just bad.”
Robert declined to talk in detail about his military service, but did confirm he is dealing with several issues, including a back injury that has prevented him from working. Patino said that Robert’s clear schedule is part of what makes him so invaluable to his coaching staff because he can give more time than most assistants.
Meanwhile, Robert contends that coaching baseball has saved his life and given him a purpose after a life of knowing only military service.
“I do baseball not to get paid,” Robert said. “I don’t do baseball because of money. I do it because baseball changed my life and it keeps me busy. I loved my job with the military. It’s unfortunate I can no longer perform my job because, but this is why I’m now doing baseball.
“In 2005, I was in a really bad spot … I joined the military right out of high school. I had no college education. I joined the military. When they let me go, it kinda put me in a bad a place. If it wasn’t for my son wanting to play baseball, getting me involved in baseball, it took me out of that dark spot.
“But again, my military service is no excuse for what I did yesterday.”
Patino said he has received several phone calls from concerned players that Robert may his lose coaching position since the picture has done the local version of going viral. Patino, the Whittier Daily News’ Coach of the Year in 2014, has also said he’s read people’s responses on social media and wants to set the record straight about himself and his staff.
“I just think when people see the picture they think there’s a couple bad guys right there who are probably ruining this team and have no clue what they’re doing,” Patino said. “Because, the picture looks kind of bad, but it’s far from the truth. We do a lot of mentoring at the high school and youth level and are always trying to give back to the youth community.”
George Robert, the coach in question: "There's no excuse for what I did yesterday. I lost my cool." https://t.co/uNK4LMHZZU
— Aram Tolegian (@aramtolegian) April 20, 2016
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