Minor League Baseball Parts Ways With Umpire School

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Minor League Baseball severed ties with the Jim Evans Academy for Professional Umpiring following an incident during a company outing in which four instructors impersonated members of the Ku Klux Klan.

The sport will no longer accept graduates from the Evans Academy, which before this year was one of two accredited schools that provided umpires to the sport. Minor League Baseball opened its own training academy, The Umpire School, this year.

The split comes as a result of an incident that took place in late January during the Evans Academy's annual party at a nearby bowling alley in Kissimmee, Fla. According to a New York Times report, the bowlers at the party split into four colorfully named teams. One group, headed by lead instructor Jason Klein, called themselves "Klein's Kleaning Krew" and entered the alley with the name silkscreened on their sheets and sheet-covered cones on their head.

The incident was brought to light when the company's lone black instructor complained to Evans four days after the party and later resigned, the Times reported. Minor League Baseball, which recently has stressed diversity by trying to create ownership and operations opportunities for minorities, conducted an investigation of the incident and decided to dismiss the three umpires involved and terminate its informal relationship with the academy.

"We did the investigation and the result was shocking. I just couldn't believe what the report revealed," Minor League Baseball president Pat O'Conner told Baseball America. "I felt like (our action) was not only the right thing to do but the best thing to do given the egregious nature of their actions . . . There is no place for that in any company I am going to be a part of. In my opinion, there is no place for that in baseball, in PBUC (Professional Baseball Umpire Corporation), and I would like to think, there is no place for that in America in 2012."

Evans, a former major league umpire whose academy opened in 1989, told the Times that the actions of his employees were lamentable but that Minor League Baseball's punishment was too harsh. He also questioned O'Conner's motivation for shutting down a business competitor.

"It was a bad joke that was not meant to hurt anyone," Evans told the Times. "We're a close-knit family, and sometimes our closeness allows us to say things or do things that we wouldn't say to other people. But no question about it, it was in poor taste."

O'Conner believes the incident left him with one option: "We felt it necessary to distance ourselves from that kind of behavior."