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Payton’s baseball coach back in the dugout Tuesday

Paytbaseball coach William Wittleder during PaytAcademy vs. Lane Tech game Seward Park Chicago Ill. Tuesday April 30 2013. | Andrew

Payton baseball coach William Wittleder during the Payton Academy vs. Lane Tech game at Seward Park in Chicago, Ill., on Tuesday, April 30, 2013. | Andrew A. Nelles~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: June 2, 2013 6:43AM

The coach of Payton College Prep’s baseball team returned to the dugout Tuesday night as school officials tried to sort out a controversial situation that arose this week when the North Side coach said he was forced to cancel a game on the South Side because parents feared for their children’s safety.

The decision to allow coach William Wittleder to attend the game came abruptly Tuesday afternoon as school officials reversed course on a plan to keep the coach away from the team. Payton Principal Timothy Devine, parents and players held a three-hour, closed-door meeting after Tuesday’s game, a 15-3 loss to Lane Tech, to discuss Wittleder’s future with the team.

At the game that preceded the meeting, a father whose son plays on the Payton team said he supports Wittleder.

“I think he handled it honestly and with integrity. I think the silent majority are on his side. I hope he stays with the school for a long time.”

Another parent, when asked if she was happy to see Wittleder back with the team, said simply, “no,” and refused further comment.

After the meeting, every parent and player, except for one, declined comment.

“He should resign because he’s a lousy coach, the kids don’t want to play for him and the kids don’t respect him,” said a father who declined to give his name.

Wittleder is also expected to coach Payton on May 11 when his squad is scheduled to play a make-up game against Brooks College Prep at the school’s gated campus in Roseland, two weeks after Wittleder was forced to cancel their original game.

“The situation has slighted parents at Brooks and made Payton parents feel they are unfairly being labeled as racist,” said a source close to the matter.

On Saturday, Wittleder told the Sun-Times, “About three, four parents [came] up to me, saying they’re not letting their kids go down there.” Wittleder called the decision to cancel the game “one of the most embarrassing moments I’ve had.”

Wittleder drove to Roseland to tell Brooks’ coach, Bryan Street, what occurred.

Chicago Public Schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett met with Devine and Wittleder on Monday to discuss the cancellation.

Devine denied his school canceled the initial game against Brooks over concerns about students’ safety.

“What I have found thus far is that the cancellation came about due to poor communication by the coach to our baseball parents about the date and time of the game, who would be responsible for transportation to and from the game, and which players would dress for the game,” he told Payton students and faculty, according to a CPS source. “This poor communication led to frustration on the part of some families and the ultimate cancellation.”

Mayor Rahm Emanuel attended a Brooks baseball game Tuesday night to show his support for the school.

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