The video that remains is grainy and shaky, and shows the Wellington Heat’s Travis Piazza duck as a pitch from Derby Twins pitcher Kevin Willman zips by his head on Sunday in Derby.
Piazza doesn’t hesitate once the ball flies past. He flips his bat to the ground and begins a slow walk toward Willman, gesturing with his hands.
Willman’s previous pitch, an inside fastball, pushed Piazza off the plate in the fifth inning and came after Piazza, 6-foot-4 and 210 pounds, had hit home runs off Willman in his first two at-bats.
It’s what happened next that has the Jayhawk League buzzing. About 10 feet from Willman and with no guarantee of fisticuffs, Piazza was leveled by Derby third baseman/catcher Drew Luther, who had come running out of the dugout, sparking a brawl between the two teams that led to six suspensions.
Derby posted the video of the fight to its YouTube page but it was later taken down. Wellington was able to repost 22 seconds of the video to its Facebook page that show Piazza approaching the mound and being tackled by Luther. Wellington won the game 12-5.
“The league is fully aware of what happened and has taken steps concerning this,” Jayhawk president J.D. Schneider said. “In 25 years, I think we’ve had two altercations and this is one of them … there’s really no excuse. This isn’t hockey.”
For Derby, Luther was suspended for three games while pitcher Travis Garcia-Perreria and Willman were each suspended for one game. For Wellington, Piazza was suspended for two games while catcher T.C. Mark and pitcher Scott Hoffman were each suspended for one game each.
Piazza, who plays for Regis University, is still sore from the tackle and the Heat wasn’t sure if he would be able to play Wednesday night against Liberal. He reported late to Wellington this summer after recovering from a hairline fracture in his vertebrae.
“I want to take the high road, but I think the video speaks for itself,” Wellington coach/owner Rick Twyman said. “I don’t think anything would’ve happened if Luther hadn’t come out and cold-cocked (Piazza). It would’ve been a damn shame if something worse would’ve happened.”
Derby general manager Jeff Wells declined comment on the fight, other than to say that Derby had taken down the video of the fight and he considered the matter “finished,” referring further questions to Schneider and Jayhawk commissioner Jim Foltz.