OXFORD — Gary Smith disputes almost everything that was said about him at a selectmen’s meeting June 21.

The Recreation Committee member disputes the facts as they were presented in an Advertiser Democrat story published Thursday, too. Reached Thursday afternoon, Smith, of Oxford, insisted the story was full of exaggerations, misunderstandings and in some areas, outright lies.

First and foremost, Smith said, he never called any child or group of children “worthless,” as one parent claimed at the meeting last week.

“I have never, in my life, called a kid worthless,” said Smith, a teacher for 28 years. “I have never degraded a kid in that way. It’s a total lie.”

The parent who made that claim was not named in Thursday’s story.

It was also untrue, Smith said, that he fired the coach during what was described as a loud tirade at a June 20 Oxford White Sox baseball game.

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“I did not fire the coach,” Smith said. “We had an issue and we had words. That info is totally false.”

Coach Randy Mills of Oxford quit, Smith said, but later reconsidered. The men resolved their differences and Mills went on to coach the following day at a game in Minot.

Mills, who has tried to stay out of the fracas, begs to differ. The coach said Smith became irate because he felt that Mills hasn’t done enough to raise money as part of a fundraiser. What followed, he said, was a loud scolding in front of the kids, the parents and everybody else at the ballgame.

“He attacked me verbally,” Mills said.

When Mills offered to write a check to make up for the money that wasn’t raised during the fundraiser — tickets were sold for Cow Flap Bingo — he said Smith refused to take it.

“He told me to keep my damn check,” Mills said. “All of a sudden, I’m not a good coach anymore. I didn’t do enough to raise money. That was very hurtful. It was hurtful to me and to my family.”

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Mills said he told Smith that he felt he could no longer coach. Smith responded by saying that he would find someone else to coach the team.

“I was relieved of my duty,” Mills said.

The two later resolved the matter and Mills continued to coach. But he said the flap that erupted at the meeting has put him in an uncomfortable position.

“There are warring factions and I’m right in the middle,” Mills said. “This is hurting me; it’s hurting my family. I’m at my wit’s end.”

There was no shortage of stories about Smith’s outbursts at the meeting earlier this month. Another parent suggested a similar outburst from Smith had influenced the outcome of last year’s championship game.

Not so, said Smith, who was an umpire at that game. What he did was refuse to allow the home team to protest the game due to what they claimed was the use of an ineligible pitcher by their opponent. The matter later went through the league president, who also ruled that there was no basis for a protest.

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“It went through proper channels,” Smith said, “and it was taken care of.”

Smith also questioned comments from Joe Rideout, former president of the Oxford Baseball/Softball Association, who was quoted in the story as saying that he had heard other teams refer to the town’s Pismo Beach ball field as “the anything-happens field” and the “Field of Nightmares.”

“I’d like for him to give me some names,” Smith said. “I’d like to know who these people are. I think he dreamt it.”

Rideout acknowledged that he was not at the ball field the day Smith was accused of firing the coach and yelling at the kids. But he said he has worked with Cal Ripken League baseball long enough to know that Smith is a problem.

Reached for comment Thursday night, Rideout stood by what he had said earlier. And he had a few more things to say.

“Gary is a very hotheaded individual,” Rideout said.

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It’s not about whether Smith did or did not fire the coach, Rideout said. It’s the way Smith deals with the people involved in local youth baseball.

“The way he’s treated the coaches, the parents and the kids, it’s like Gary is God,” Rideout said. “A lot of people have put up with it for a lot of years. It’s a disgrace what it’s doing to youth baseball.”

He said the issue at last year’s championship wasn’t so much about the ineligible pitcher as it was the way Smith yelled at the coaches involved in the dispute. It’s a behavior Rideout said has been repeated.

“It was an embarrassment to Cal Ripken Baseball, as well as to the town of Oxford,” Rideout said. “He has made an absolute mockery of what youth baseball is supposed to be about. Finally, some of the parents have said, ‘Enough is enough.'”

As for the matter of the “Field of Nightmares,” Rideout insists it has become an ongoing joke among coaches, parents and others familiar with the league. At a recent game at The Field of Dreams in Harrison, several coaches and umpires joked about the situation in Oxford, Rideout said. They referred to it as “The Field of Nightmares,” Rideout repeated, even if Smith questions his sources.

“How can he attest to what I’ve heard?” Rideout wondered.

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It was not immediately clear how the matter would be resolved. Smith was not present at the June 21 meeting at which several parents were quoted as complaining about his behavior at the ball field. Smith said he was not told about the meeting and was not given the opportunity to defend himself. He learned of the complaints, he said, when he read it in the Advertiser Democrat.

“There are so many inaccuracies in this article,” Smith said. “People are going to read it and they’re going to believe it. It’s my reputation that’s on the line.”

Mills knows the feeling. He said his health has been deteriorating as a result of the controversy, in which he has become a sort of symbol.

“I’ve been nothing but gracious,” he said. “I’ve done my job and I’ve done it with honor and dignity. I got into this to play ball and to help the kids. I guess I’m just naive.”

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