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N. Hills reviews baseball hecklers

| Friday, May 11, 2007

Jeering the opposing team's pitcher might be part of the fun at PNC Park, but at North Hills High School games, hecklers are not welcome.

Four North Hills students were warned at the school's varsity baseball game Wednesday evening -- and one was asked to leave -- after making "inappropriate comments" to umpires and visiting students from rival North Allegheny, district officials said. The unnamed student who was removed later returned to sit with school board member Jeff Meyer, officials said.

"This is not acceptable behavior from North Hills students," district spokeswoman Tina Vojtko said. "The incident was handled appropriately by our staff."

The problem started early in the game at Herb Field, next to the Ross municipal building. Vojtko said four high school students who inappropriately heckled opposing players, fans and the umpires were twice warned by high school social studies teacher David Sentner, who was monitoring students at the game.

"Three of the boys adjusted their behavior after the second warning," Vojtko said. "Mr. Sentner only had to ask one to leave, because the others settled down."

Meyer, who arrived late to the game, said he did not know then that Sentner had lectured the boys. Because he knew one of the students and had met two others that evening, he decided to sit with them.

"I came as a fan. I was there to root on North Hills, not as a school board member," said Meyer, whose son plays for the district's junior varsity baseball team. "When I heard the one boy heckling the pitcher at the mound, I told him he needed to stop that."

Meyer said he spoke with North Hills Athletic Director Dan Cardone and Sentner after they saw the boy sitting with Meyer behind home plate.

"This isn't a play. This is not an opera. It's a baseball game. Remember, these are teenagers," Meyer said. He said the umpires did not get involved, which led him to believe there was no need to evict anyone.

"There was no inappropriate behavior exhibited by the students, nor was any vulgarity used. I now understand why we have difficulty attracting students to our athletic events other than football," Meyer said. "In my estimation, these students were unfairly asked to leave the game."

The district is a five-time recipient of the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association's Sportsmanship Award.

"We pride ourselves on our sportsmanship here," Vojtko said. "North Hills has a low tolerance for that sort of behavior."

Jim Lyons, a parent in the district and scorekeeper at the game, said he was surprised to hear about the incident.

"Those kids are very enthusiastic and a good group of kids. We never have had any problems," said Lyons, of Ross. "I didn't see anything inappropriate happening, not from the faculty or the students."

Vojtko said district officials will review the incident to ensure faculty handled it property.

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