HUEYTOWN, Ala. (WIAT) — A softball field is supposed to be a safe haven for girls of all ages. It’s where they can take their cuts and dive around in the dirt with reckless abandon. The Hueytown Fastpitch league is one of thousands across the country that offer girls the chance to get out and play when spring rolls around.
“I consider every kid out here one of my own,” said Charlie Burton, commissioner of the league. “We’ve got over two hundred girls that play ball out here.”
That’s why the discovery that one of the umpires calling his games was a convicted sex offender. On March 22nd, Fred Allen Thomas III was arrested for violating the terms of his release. A parent of one of the Hueytown players, who also serves as a police officer in the city, recognized Thomas from one of his arrests.
He asked Burton to find out the umpires name, because he thought he was a sex offender. After Burton called him with the name, the officers suspicions were confirmed.
Burton said they get their umpires from the United States Specialty Sports Association (USSSA, or “U-Trip” for short). Because they do not hire their own officials, the league doesn’t run background checks.
“We as a park,” said Burton, “do background checks every season, on all our board members, team moms, and every coach that has anything to do with the kids.”
After learning of Thomas’ situation, he called the USSSA and informed them. He said they told him agency typically doesn’t run background checks on applicants.
“That’s something that’s being really pushed for them to do nationwide,” said Burton.
Burton and the league are grateful nothing horrendous occurred, however he thinks there are lessons to be learned. He not only wants more vigilance from governing bodies, he also commends the parent that initially recognized a sex offender on his field.
“If you have kids playing any type of sports outside school,” he said, “I think you do need to be vigilant.”
2014 WIAT-TV CBS42