DANGERS OF LITTLE LEAGUE BASEBALL: 13-YEAR-OLD GETS BANNED FROM PLAYOFFS DUE TO CLERICAL ERROR BY LOCAL LITTLE LEAGUE
I’ve taken LL to task in the past regarding Williamsport’s blessing of aluminum bats and allowing kids to throw curve balls at too young an age. And a lot of people all over the country have agreed with me that LL really needs to start living up to its mission statement about “safety first” for its millions of participants.
But now comes this bizarre case of a 13-year-old who has been abruptly banned from playing on his LL team in East New Haven, CT as his team progresses through the playoffs. The reason? Because even though Ian Fagan has been playing with the same team since he was six, apparently two years ago the local board decided that his home address no longer allows him to play for his Annex team.
Problem is…no one ever informed Ian or his parents about this zoning change. Every year before the season begins, Ian presents proof of his home address, utility bill, and so on, and each year, he is allowed to play on the Annex LL team.
Except that two weeks ago, as his team progressed into the playoffs, somebody in the local LL office discovered the clerical mistake. “Sorry Ian,” the word came back, “you’re no longer eligible to play.”
It was stunning news. In talking with Ian’s mom, Pauline, this week, I asked her whether appeals had been made to LL International in Williamsport, PA. “Yes, they know of the situation,” said Ms. Fagan, “but they refuse to change their position.”
For years, LL baseball has had to deal with ambitious parents and coaches who have tried to cirvumnavigate the rules regarding the zoning of addresses, so that their kids can play for a better team. That’s why LL checks the kids’ addresses. But in this case, this was NOT an amibitious act perpetrated by Ian’s parents, but rather a simple mistake made by the local LL. There’s a big, big difference.
In my opinion, LL in Williamsport should step in, explain what happened here, and do the right thing: give the kid a one-time exception and let him play. It wasn’t his fault that the mistake was made…it was the fault of Little League.
Or, as Doug Abrams has suggested to me, LL could have simply grandfathered the kid in, saying that once the new zoning went into effect, it would affect ONLY those kids who weren’t already playing on a local LL team. That would have worked as well.
But as it stands now, Ian Fagan’s LL career is now officially over. He sits in the dugout, watching his teammates play, and knowing that he did nothing wrong. What a shame.
C’mon, Little League, this is your chance to do the right thing. Your organization is supposed to be about letting kids chase their dreams…why are you telling this kid that his dream is now over?