Nobody can fuel the false and vicious rumor mill of springtime like unhappy adult relatives of Little League players.
Earlier this week, I wrote a column about an undefeated girls’ softball team from the Santa Fe Little League being disqualified from postseason play under mysterious circumstances.
An executive from Little League’s Southwest Region office in Waco, Texas, announced that the Santa Fe team was barred from postseason play, but he didn’t say why. Now I have no doubt that an adult from a rival league was behind the complaint and that it had no substance.
The Santa Fe team was in the division for girls ages 10 to 12. It tore through the competition all season, only to be ruled ineligible hours before it was to begin qualifying play for the state tournament.
One woman with loyalties to a team in another league phoned me Tuesday to say she found my column misleading. She said the Santa Fe coach, Maria Cedillo, broke the rules by recruiting players too old for Little League.
“Maria bragged all over town about using 13-year-olds,” the complainer said.
She accused the coach of cheating. The complainer objected when I characterized her account this way. She said she never used the word cheater.
No, all she did was claim a coach had stacked her roster with ringers who exceeded the age limit.
We hung up. Within seconds, a man phoned me with a similar complaint about the Santa Fe team.
He said his nieces play in the Los Alamos Little League. He claimed the Santa Fe team had been disqualified for using players who were too old.
I asked how he knew this. He said everybody knew it. He heard it from another coach. I should know it, too, he said, because nobody could be naive enough to believe any other reason would disqualify a team.
How wrong he was. All the gossip about age violations was untrue.
Families of every player on the Santa Fe team had provided birth certificates, which were verified by the league’s district administrator. All the players were within prescribed age limits.
“Actually, Maria’s players tend to be younger. A lot of 10- and 11-year-olds are on this team,” said Aaron Ortiz, a vice president of the Santa Fe Little League.
In fact, two 9-year-olds were on the roster of 15 players. Santa Fe’s Little League only had enough players to field one team in the 10-12 age bracket. The 9-year-olds would not have had a team to play on had they not been allowed to compete against girls as much as three years older.
The Santa Fe team was clean in fielding a team that complied with the rules on age. So what was its violation?
Kevin Fountain, a spokesman at Little League’s international headquarters in Williamsport, Pa., sent me this statement on Tuesday evening:
“In short, Regulation I(g) prohibits local Little League programs from bringing in an ‘intact’ team and/or sponsoring or otherwise supporting any team, individual, or group of individuals for participating in a non-Little League Softball or Baseball Program, event, or game, which this team was found to be in violation of,” Fountain wrote.
Cut through the verbiage, and one allegation is that Cedillo’s Little League team also competed in other softball leagues.
This is not true.
Four players competed only in Little League. The others participated in AABC softball, but they were on two different teams.
All of this is permissible under Little League rules. Ortiz, a sergeant with the Santa Fe Police Department, said he could have proved it had he received the chance.
Fountain also cited a regulation prohibiting a Little League team from sponsoring, underwriting or providing resources for teams or players who participate in non-Little League games or events.
Ortiz said the Santa Fe Little League obeyed this rule, too.
His Little League never helped pay for any other program. The softball players never used Little League uniforms or equipment when they played for a team in a different organization.
Ortiz then wrote the Williamsport headquarters, asking that the Santa Fe team be reinstated in postseason play.
“With this setback, I’m worried it will hurt us going forward. I believe having a good Little League program makes the community better,” Ortiz said.
Corner the parents of any Little League player, and they will tell you all they want is for kids to have fun and get some exercise. Competition is an afterthought. Dragging down another team with innuendo is unthinkable.
It sounds good. Too bad it’s not always true.
In this case, an adult somewhere complained about little girls who were having a whale of a time showing off how well they could throw, field and hit.
Ringside Seat is an opinion column about people, politics and news. Contact Milan Simonich at firstname.lastname@example.org or 505-986-3080.