From Another Era And Another Sport, A Sex Abuse Scandal Still Inflicting Pain Today
He remembers hearing the popping sound from far away. He didn't know what it was so he followed the noise from the house on Avenue O. Half a mile Leeronnie Ogletree ran, the pops getting louder, the intrigue multiplying until he saw the stadium. He peered through a chain-link fence with a 10-year-old's wonderment. Baseball players in Winter Haven, Fla. Real baseball players in unblemished uniforms. Pitchers throwing, catchers receiving. Pop-pop-pop. It was the first day of spring training in 1973. Everything was pure.
A man asked Leeronnie if he wanted to meet the Boston Red Sox, maybe make a few bucks on the side cleaning around the clubhouse. Both knew what the answer would be.
"If you're a kid, you fall in love with the game of baseball," Ogletree says. "There's one in a million chance of meeting a professional ballplayer, let alone working with them. If kids like something, and if you say you're going to take that away, they'll do anything to keep what's good to them. I know what happened to me at 10 years old."
Today, Ogletree is 48. He can't forget about what happened when he was 10, not ever. So in September, after a long time away, he put a sign into his car and drove to a ballpark again. People would see what happened to him at 10 years old. And they never would forget, either.
Before Jerry Sandusky -- before he allegedly used the Penn State football complex to commit sex crimes with young boys and before the university spent more than a decade covering up his sins and before the grand-jury report revealed the appalling details of his abuse and before the campus rioted over legendary coach Joe Paterno losing his job amid it all -- there was Donald Fitzpatrick, the longtime Red Sox clubhouse manager who lured Ogletree and at least a dozen other young, African-American boys into two decades of systemic sexual abuse.
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