Maze game

Ump, 72, takes legal action after being hit during youth ball game

BRANCHBURG — The 72-year-old umpire who suffered a broken jaw and concussion in a youth baseball game has filed a lawsuit against the parent-coach accused of hitting him.

James Neely was officiating a 13U baseball game at White Oak Park in Branchburg on June 4 when a coach from a visiting Staten Island team began insulting him with “extensive profanity” in front of the young players, the lawsuit alleges. .

The civil complaint said Neely ejected the coach, identified as Jerry Otero, 40, of Staten Island. In response, the parent-coach punched Neely “without warning or justification”.

Otero is charged with aggravated assault and assault at a youth sporting event. Acting Somerset County District Attorney Annmarie Taggart said Otero fled the scene before police arrived but turned himself in more than two weeks later.

The entrance to White Oak Park in Branchburg. (Google Maps)

The entrance to White Oak Park in Branchburg. (Google Maps)

“Our focus must be the children,” Neely said in a statement. “We need to make sure youth sports remains a place where they can learn and grow in a safe environment. I hope to be on the pitch one day soon for the kids.”

Along with Otero, the lawsuit names the New York Prospects, Prospects President Frank Cambria, and the US Amateur Baseball League, which hosted the tournament that day. The Prospects is a non-profit organization that operates youth baseball teams on Staten Island.

Neely is also suing the Staten Island team’s parents, who have not yet been identified. The lawsuit claimed the parents encouraged the assault by yelling at Neely and taunting him after the punch.

At least one parent was heard saying Neely “got what he deserved”, according to the lawsuit.

Neely had remained anonymous until his lawyer, Andrew O’Conner, announced the lawsuit on Tuesday.

“People’s behavior in youth travel sports has gotten completely out of hand,” O’Conner said. “Now we will seek justice for Mr Neely in court and ensure that children at all sporting events are protected.”

Rick Rickman is a reporter for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at richard.rickman@townsquaremedia.com

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