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Pirates Arizona catcher arrested in assaults

Wednesday, August 22, 2001

By Michael A. Fuoco, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

Arizona Diamondbacks catcher Mike DiFelice, who has a stormy history with Pittsburgh on the baseball diamond, was arrested early yesterday outside a Strip District nightclub on charges he punched a female patron in the face, attacked another woman with a lighter and slugged a male parking valet.

Diamondbacks Mike Difelice.
(Peter Diana, Post-Gazette)

DiFelice, 32, was arrested about 1:30 a.m. outside the Area 51 club by uniformed city officers working an off-duty security detail there. He and the Diamondbacks had arrived in town Monday for a three-game series with the Pirates that began last night.

A backup catcher acquired from Tampa Bay last month, DiFelice yesterday morning was lodged in the Allegheny County Jail on two counts of simple assault and single counts of indecent assault, reckless endangerment and disorderly conduct. He was arraigned later in the morning by City Magistrate Moira Harrington, who set bail at $6,000 and scheduled a preliminary hearing for Aug. 31.

She also ordered DiFelice, a Philadelphia native and Florida resident, to undergo an examination by the Allegheny County Behavior Clinic at the jail. That is routine for anyone charged with a crime with a sexual component, like indecent assault.

After his examination, DiFelice was released on bail about 1:30 p.m. and was in uniform at PNC Park last night with the rest of the team. He did not play.

Before the game, DiFelice declined to talk about his arrest. But he issued a statement through the team:

"Because this situation is currently pending in the court system, I cannot comment at this time on the advice of my attorneys."

The Diamondbacks also issued a statement, saying the organization was "aware of the off-field incident" but, consistent with Major League Baseball and club policies, would not comment "until local authorities have completed a full investigation."

Coincidentally yesterday, Major League Baseball suspended DiFelice and the Pirates' Kevin Young for two games each and levied undisclosed fines for an on-field fight in Phoenix last week that led to a bench-clearing brawl and the ejection of both players.

The brawl occurred in the second inning after Young was thrown out at the plate and became entangled with DiFelice.

Both players appealed, meaning their penalties won't start until after a hearing before Paul Beeston, baseball's chief operating officer.

In his report on yesterday's incident, Officer Robert Thomas, who was working an off-duty detail outside Area 51, 2106 Penn Ave., said he was called inside the club about 1:25 a.m. to help remove a "very disorderly person."

Inside, Thomas said, he saw security personnel trying to remove a "wild and unruly" man, later identified as DiFelice. He said he helped security by grabbing DiFelice's legs and pulling him outside.

Once outside, DiFelice got to his feet and punched parking valet James Tramonte, 24, in the face "for no apparent reason," Thomas reported.

Yesterday afternoon, Tramonte was at his North Braddock home, holding ice to his swollen lip when he learned from a reporter that the person who attacked him was a ballplayer, the same one who a week earlier had made national video highlights for fighting with Young.

"All I knew was that it was somebody from Florida," Tramonte said.

"He didn't say a word. He got to his feet and I was the first person he saw, I guess, and he hit me ... He stepped out of line but what happens from here is up to the judge and the police."

Thomas said that after DiFelice hit Tramonte, he and fellow off-duty officer Steve Crisanti restrained him and told him he was under arrest. The officers attempted to get information from DiFelice but he swore at club security and threatened them.

According to Thomas, the trouble began when DiFelice began rubbing the arms of a stranger, a 28-year-old Tarentum woman who is a body-builder. Her name is being withheld because the Post-Gazette does not identify accusers or victims in sex-related cases.

DiFelice told the woman he liked her arms but the woman told him to stop. DiFelice then reached down and grabbed the woman's buttocks, police were told. A 35-year-old woman, also from Tarentum, told DiFelice to stop bothering her friend but he responded by putting a lighter to her buttocks, police reported.

The first woman then pushed DiFelice away and he punched her in the face, knocking her to the ground. Security personnel grabbed DiFelice but he broke loose and ran back to the woman, who was still on the floor, and started beating her again. That's when Thomas was summoned.

The woman whom DiFelice is accused of punching was treated by medics for a large cut above her eye and head pain. The other two victims declined treatment.

DiFelice's antipathy with Pittsburgh dates to 1997 when he was at the center of a Pirates-Cardinals brawl after putting a hard tag on Mark Johnson, who was trying to score. That prompted both benches to empty and earned an ejection for Young for coming off the bench.

Later that season, DiFelice was plunked by a Jason Schmidt pitch, and in a September game, he required stitches when he was accidentally hit in the mouth by Young's bat in his follow-through.

Sports writer Robert Dvorchak contributed to this report.

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