Charity Strikes Out
Glendale Little Leaguers Benched for Playing in Benefit Tourney
By DAVID E. BRADY, TIMES STAFF WRITER
Friday, July 14, 1995
There was no joy in Glendale this week for a group of Little League baseball players benched for the remainder of the season after being told that playing in a series of charity games violated a league rule.
Twenty all-star players from the Verdugo and Vaquero leagues were notified by Little League district administrator Mike Malone that their participation constituted a violation of Regulation IV, which states that "not more than six players of a Little League regular season or tournament team may participate on another team except authorized elementary and junior high school teams and only during the school term."
The rule is designed to keep some players from gaining an unfair edge by engaging in more competition than the others, a Little League official said.
The league maintains that the 20 players violated the rule by playing in a tournament involving 27 Los Angeles-area squads earlier this month to benefit the Tim Herman Foundation, a nonprofit organization named for a 9-year-old La Crescenta ballplayer who died of a heart condition last year.
Carlos Torres, president of the Verdugo League, said the dispute amounts to a selective interpretation of the rule, because the games were simply for fun, not to hone competitive skills.
"There was no winner. Everybody was a winner," he said. "It was just set up to play."
Tim Herman's father, Rob, said that while the fund-raising tournament barely broke even, the games were not meant to compete with Little League.
"The intent was to highlight children as gifts," Herman said of the second annual event. "We're not aligned with any program."
For the 11- and 12-year-old players, the news that their Little League season had been terminated came as a painful shock, Torres said.
"They were devastated," said Jackie Garcia of Glendale, whose 12-year-old son Sergio was playing the final season in which he will be eligible for Little League. "They feel that they're being punished."
She said although they were aware of Malone's decision, the teams suited up for their previously scheduled games Wednesday, intending to stage a sit-in at Babe Herman Field in Glendale.
The sit-in was called off because the opposing team failed to show. According to Garcia, the games had been rescheduled by league officials, who did not notify the Verdugo and Vaquero players.
Torres acknowledged that he and Richard (Moe) Montanez, president of the Vaquero League, had clashed with Malone on earlier occasions, suggesting that the decision to bar the 20 boys from competition arose from personality conflicts among the adults.
"He reads the rules the way he wants to read 'em," Torres said of Malone. "He does not get along with me and he does not get along with [Montanez]."
Reached at his office Thursday afternoon, Malone declined to comment on the situation, referring all calls to league headquarters in Williamsport, Pa.
Little League spokesman Dennis Sullivan defended Malone's decision and said Torres and Montanez had been warned of the potential consequences if their players participated in the charity games.
"I hope the effect of this is that the adults act responsibly and teach the kids that you play by the rules," he said.
Sullivan explained that while enforcement is sometimes painful, respect for the rules is at the core of Little League baseball.
"It's never a comfortable position to pass on news that a kid's not going to be able to play ball, but the idea of Little League is you play by the rules," he said.
Sergio Garcia, Verdugo's catcher, said the decision left him "sad and mad" but had not spoiled his enjoyment of the sport.
"I still love the game, no matter what."
Banned Little Leaguers to Make Final Pitch for Playoffs
Suit seeks to halt district all-star tournament. Parents want games replayed with the excluded players
By DAVID E. BRADY, TIMES STAFF WRITER
Wednesday, July 19, 1995
GLENDALE--The saga of a group of Little League ballplayers banned from postseason play for participating in a series of charity games will move from the ball field to the courtroom today when lawyers ask a judge to halt further competition in the District 16 all-star tournament.
Phillip R. Marrone, a Burbank attorney representing the parents of players in the Verdugo and Vaquero leagues, said he will ask Superior Court Judge S. James Otero for a temporary restraining order this afternoon to stop the final district game scheduled for tonight.
Marrone said parents are seeking to have the tournament games replayed to include the banned players.
"We're going to ask for a mandatory injunction and ask the court to order Little League to let these kids play," he said.
Twenty all-star players from the two leagues were banned from the district tournament after Little League officials notified them that their participation in a benefit for the nonprofit Tim Herman Foundation earlier this month violated a league rule that forbids more than six players from the same team playing on a nonleague team.
The foundation is named for a 9-year-old La Crescenta baseball enthusiast who died of a heart condition last year.
Since the next level of tournament play begins Saturday, Marrone said parents would accept a series of single-elimination games to determine the district champion or an alternative scenario where the winner of a Verdugo-Vaquero matchup would play the remaining district team for the championship.
At Little League headquarters in Williamsport, Pa., spokesman Dennis Sullivan said that as of Tuesday afternoon he was unaware of legal action being taken against the organization, but he admitted that such an order could disrupt a six-week playoff schedule in which 7,000 teams compete in 15,000 games to reach the Little League World Series.
"Any time you put a detour in a well-defined path like the World Series tournament there's going to be delays and difficulties because it's a lot of games played in a very short amount of time," he said.
Mark Puccinelli, Vaquero's coach, said he would like to see Little League reinstate the players and let the matter drop.
"My hope is that they've had enough embarrassment," he said.
Puccinelli described the ballplayers as "frustrated," but he expressed hope that the situation would be ultimately resolved on a baseball diamond.
"The players should decide it on the field."
Little Leaguers Can Play Ball, Judge Rules
By DAVID E. BRADY, TIMES STAFF WRITER
Thursday, July 20, 1995
GLENDALE--A Superior Court judge took time out Wednesday from the usual murders, robberies and multimillion-dollar civil suits to rule on whether the Verdugo and Vaquero all-stars get to play for their district Little League championship, even if they did violate some adults' regulations.
After a 25-minute hearing, His Honor ruled:
Superior Court Judge S. James Otero not only returned the two all-star teams to the ranks of Little League contenders, he ruled that they must face off against each other in an elimination game tonight.
"The winner of that game will play the so-called tournament champion" on Friday or Saturday, said Phillip R. Marrone, the Burbank attorney who represents the players' parents.
The two all-star teams had been forbidden to play in the district championship by national Little League officials because they played in a charity event.
According to Marrone, the judge agreed that irreparable harm would come to the players, many of whom are in their last season of Little League eligibility, if they were not allowed to complete the season.
Steven Smilay, the attorney representing Little League Baseball Inc., did not return a telephone call seeking comment Wednesday evening.
Twenty Verdugo and Vaquero all-star players were banned from the District 16 all-star playoffs after Little League officials decided that their participation in a charity tournament earlier this month violated a league rule that forbids more than six players from the same team competing on a nonleague team.
If their parents had not been successful in their appeal to the court to intervene, the district champion would have been decided at the last scheduled game of the tournament Wednesday night.
Carlos Torres, president of the Verdugo Little League, said that although the teams had asked the judge to order that the tournament be restarted with the two ousted teams participating, he's satisfied with the outcome.
"We're happy," he said. "All we've been saying all along is they should have the opportunity to play."
Torres and Richard (Moe) Montanez, president of the Vaquero Little League, have been stripped of their volunteer positions by national Little League officials for allowing their players to compete in the charity games after being informed that it violated league rules, a situation that Torres said has yet to be resolved.
"That's something else that we're going to address at a later date," he said.
Torres said he was "the happiest person around" when the judge's decision was announced but that there would be no party to celebrate.
"We're getting ready to practice," he said.
And while the ruling once again places the Verdugo and Vaquero players and parents on opposite sides of the ball field, Verdugo Manager Tony Cisneros said that everyone will remain friends.
"We're united and we'll stay united," he said.
Copyright © 1995 Times Mirror Company
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