During a high school baseball game earlier this month between Gadsden and Alamogordo high schools, first base umpire Cory Jones demanded that a Gadsden player stop speaking Spanish, and threatened to eject him from the game if he didn't.

Gadsden High officials complained to the New Mexico Activities Association, but last week Jones put the issue to rest when he resigned as a high school umpire.

We're certain it was not Jones' intention to create the firestorm that followed his actions. Gadsden Athletics Director Karen Nogues said it was their desire to have the issue addressed so a similar incident would not be repeated, but not to have Jones stop umpiring high school games.

"Can we move forward, can we learn, can we grow? That's what we wanted to address," Nogues said.

We hope so.

English-speaking and Spanish-speaking residents have shared this land since long before the days of statehood. Yet for many, it is the one issue that still divides us unlike any other.

It is impossible to say with certainty what Jones heard and why he reacted the way he did. Alamogordo coach Randy McCloud said it was his understanding that Jones believed Gadsden players were cursing at or taunting Alamogordo players in Spanish. Gadsden spokesman Luis Villalobos disputed that, saying the players were merely encouraging each other.

Whatever the case, Jones was in the wrong. If he believed the comments were out of line, he should have sought help from the home plate umpire, who was bilingual. But to threaten to eject any player who uttered a word of Spanish was simply not an appropriate remedy.

That we are a bilingual and a bicultural community is a strength, not a weakness. High school student-athletes conduct their studies every day in English when in the classroom. But in the heat of the moment on the athletic field, they may revert to the language they are more comfortable with.

It's unfortunate that Jones has stepped down. We would have preferred a strong ruling from the activities association that would have set the ground rules for all officials. We still think it would be helpful for the association to send guidance to officials on this issue so there is no confusion in the future.

Las Cruces Sun-News, April 23