Leeronnie 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.
“He grabbed me and told me to take my clothes off,” Ogletree says. “I’ll never forget him putting his mouth on my penis. I don’t mind telling it now because I’m over it. But that stands out. And I’ll never forget it.”
Toward the end of batting practice before an Aug. 25, 1991 game in Anaheim, Calif., a man leaned over the Red Sox dugout and held up a sign:
Donald Fitzpatrick Sexually Assaulted Me“I was a good kid,” Ogletree says. “I was raised right. The sentence I really got was a life sentence because of what I went through with the Red Sox.”
Slowly, Ogletree says, he’s figuring out what love means. He sees it from his mom and his sisters even if he can’t return it in full. And he wants to feel it toward his four children, 16-year-old Kadeshia, 15-year-old Leeronnie, 12-year-old Leeroy and 9-year-old Randell, none of whom he knows particularly well. He meets with them once a week. Goes to the mall. Catches a movie. Plays football or basketball.
“He’s confused how to be a father,” says Crump, his lawyer. “It’s one of the saddest experiences possible.”
He wants to learn, to live for something beyond his own salvation, which he has tried for years to no avail. He sees his balance in his children and a real relationship, the sort he’s not exactly sure how to cultivate. He says he’s sober, and that helps. And that as he was getting out of prison, Kadeshia and Leeronnie looked up his name on the Internet, found these awful stories and started to understand better that their dad wasn’t some deadbeat junkie, even if he had left them with their grandma for eight years.
This, Ogletree says, is where he becomes a person again, where he must shed the fears and insecurities and conquer a man long dead and a disease that will continue to curse him unless he kills it.
“I have my moments where I’m so overly protective,” Ogletree says. “That’s what I’ve got to get away from being. My son’s ready to play sports. I want to be right there. It does affect me. Kids have to be kids. I don’t let them go to no events unless I’m there. I might say it’s overprotective. But what else do I know?
“It’s too difficult to avoid. You’ve got to look at some of the people — and I pray to God I’m not one of those — who turn around and become a monster themselves. That’s why I think it’s so important.”
So he promises them things he can’t promise like a book deal for “Major League Addiction.” He says it’s got good dirt. Something about a cabal of child molesters in clubhouse whose names he doesn’t remember and a full accounting of the steroid users he saw working in Fitzpatrick’s clubhouse and how Major League Baseball failed by letting a sexual deviant run rampant for 20 years. If people didn’t know who he was, who Donald Fitzpatrick was, they would. He’d make sure.
The drive from the house on Avenue O to Tropicana Field on Sept. 10 took about 90 minutes. Ogletree loaded his cardboard sign into the back of the car and told his mom he was about to leave for his protest. Oreatha raised him in that house to be a strong boy. She hoped he had strength for this.
He parked at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla., chatted with the police to make sure they were OK with what he was about to do and got the go-ahead. There was no big Facebook crowd. That was OK. Maybe someday.
Anyway, it’s not like he was protesting as much as offering an informational session for anybody interested in the big, bold, catchy headline on his sign. The Boston Red Sox were in town that weekend. Ogletree knew the crowd would be bigger than the poor excuse at most Tampa Bay Rays games. He knew, too, they would want to talk with him.
Above him read a big, unmistakable headline: Man Warns Parents About Sexual Abuse in Major League Baseball. The passersby gawked. And for those bold enough to ask, Ogletree told them about Donald James Fitzpatrick and the horror he caused.
“I need to tell people my story,” he says.
He will repeat it to friends and strangers, to the concerned and the insensitive. He plans on driving to different training camps in Florida this spring to warn fans of sexual predators. There’s just one person who can’t hear it, not anymore.
Oreatha Ogletree, 83, has lived at the house on Avenue O for more than seven decades. She grew up there, raised her three kids and 10 others. Her mom was a real-estate investor and bought the property. Oreatha says someone offered her $1 million for the place and she said no. Her mom lived to 101, so she figures she’s got a long time left in that house.
“God will get you through anything, and if you’ve got him, that’s all you need,” Oreatha says. “My mother said that. You don’t need money. If you’ve got God, he gives you all you need. Whatever you need.”
Where, then, was God when a wicked man was causing irreparable harm to her son? That’s not a question Oreatha cares to answer. She says she’s not that wise.
She just has faith because “he’s a strong boy” and because “he’s with the people that really love him” and because there’s really no alternative. There never is a certain answer for victims of sexual predators.
Like getting away from Winter Haven, up and moving. Maybe, Ogletree says, it would help. Maybe it wouldn’t. His extended family remains there. Same with some of the other victims.
So does Chain of Lakes Park. The Red Sox are long gone from the complex as are the Cleveland Indians, the team that replaced them. When Ogletree was in prison, they left and nobody came. On the first day of spring training, no longer does the air fill with a pop-pop-pop. The field is empty, silence pervasive except for the house a half-mile up the road, on Avenue O, where Leeronnie Ogletree still hears it loud as ever.
Someday, he hopes, the sound will stop.
Read the rest here:
- Mega Chrurch Pastor accused of Child Sexual Abuse (gofishministries.wordpress.com)