PITTSBURGH – A youth baseball coach paid one of his players to hurt an 8-year-old mentally disabled teammate so the boy wouldn't be able to play in a game, state police said Friday.
Mark R. Downs Jr. (search), 27, of Dunbar, offered one of his players $25 to hit the boy in the head with a baseball, police said. Witnesses told police Downs didn't want the boy to play in the T-ball game because of his disability.
The solicited player hit the boy in the head and in the groin with a baseball just before a game, and the disabled boy didn't play, police said.
Downs, who is a coach with the R.W. Clark Youth Baseball League (search), had an unpublished telephone number and could not immediately be reached for comment Friday. It was unclear whether he had an attorney.
The assault happened June 27 at the R.W. Clark baseball field in North Union Township, Fayette County, about 40 miles southeast of Pittsburgh (search).
The 8-year-old's mother asked the state police to investigate her son's injuries because she suspected Downs wanted to keep the boy off the field, despite a league rule that required each player to participate in three innings a game, said state police Trooper Thomas B. Broadwater.
"The coach was very competitive. He wanted to win," Broadwater said.
Downs was arrested and arraigned Friday on charges of criminal solicitation to commit aggravated assault, corruption of minors, criminal conspiracy to commit simple assault and recklessly endangering another person. He was released from jail on an unsecured bond.
Eric Forsythe, the president of the R.W. Clark Youth Baseball League, said league organizers investigated accusations against Downs before the T-ball season ended earlier this month, but could not prove that he did anything wrong.
If Downs is convicted of any crime, he won't be allowed to be a coach next year, Forsythe said.
Downs had two daughters on the T-ball team, Forsythe said.
The league isn't affiliated with Little League International (search).