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Bosco’s Corner: Overhaul needed to LL system

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An instance was brought to my attention last week concerning a Little League team that won a game on the field, yet lost it on a technicality during the annual District 26 11- and 12-year-old Major Division tournament. In other words, a team that earned the win by playing better lost the game well after the final out was recorded — something that should never happen on the Little League level.

Unfortunately, this kind of thing is all too common and, unlike something that can be easily addressed, the bureaucracy of Little League and the way rules are set up, only the head office in Williamsport, Pa. can straighten things out, something it failed to do in at least one instance in Queens recently.

The Bayside 11- and 12-year-old team, competing for the District title, trounced College Point in the opening game of the tournament, 10-0, bringing the “mercy rule” into play in the fourth inning and shortening the game by more than two innings.

But Bayside manager Willie Kalinkos had yet to insert all the players on his team into the game, a Williamsport rule to ensure that all team members get a chance to play. When the College Point coach pointed this out to the umpire after the game’s conclusion, Bayside was stripped of the win, which went to College Point. The “official score” became 6-0.

Bayside immediately protested the decision and, with the higher-ups in District 26 agreeing and pleading the team’s case to Williamsport, hoped to turn what was a win, that turned into a loss, back into a win.

But Williamsport upheld the decision made at the field that College Point had won the game. It upheld the decision, I suspect, because the letter of the law states that Bayside was supposed to get all its kids into the game by a certain time and simply did not do that.

Technically, College Point was right, but ethically, I don’t know how Williamsport could have upheld the decision.

In defense of College Point, the team’s manager was only securing a much-needed win for his players instead of accepting a loss in the double-elimination tournament which would have put his team in a hole that would have been hard to climb out of.

But that is no consolation for Bayside. The kids went onto the field, played hard and won the game only to have that victory snatched away because of some rule that only recently came into being.

When I asked former Bayside Little League President Joe Kessler about the rule, Kessler, now a coach with the Bayside Yankees, could not believe I had heard the story right. When he was coaching summer tournament teams — two of which he took all the way to the New York State finals — there was no such rule.

Kessler was afforded the luxury of playing whichever players he thought gave his team the best chance of winning the game. This meant that occasionally some players never got into a game. Kessler added that he knew there was such a rule when it came to the intramural season, when in-house teams competed against one another, but not on the all-important district, sectional, regional, state and national levels.

I do not like the way things are set up now. During the in-house season, I think mandatory playing time is essential, especially for the younger teams, but come tournament time, I think all the kids want to win.

The teams that play in the district tournaments are all-star teams from their respective leagues, not teams that won their division titles and moved on to represent the leagues in the district tournament.

The fact that these are all-star teams makes plain the fact that winning is a priority on the district level and beyond. These teams are not just playing for fun anymore, they are playing for the right to extend their baseball season. And the only way to do that is to keep winning.

Luckily for Bayside, this year’s 11- and 12-year-old team was particularly strong. Though it was facing the possibility of being eliminated by just one more defeat, the team persevered and fought its way into a showdown with unbeaten Forest Hills.

Bayside won the first game, 6-5, forcing a second game for all the marbles. Bayside prevailed again, winning, 6-1 and claiming the District 26 crown, a crown that was almost taken away from them.

Much to Bayside’s credit, team members did not complain about the rules violation loss to College Point. Kalinkos shouldered all of the blame himself, pointing out to me that it was his mistake, no one else’s, not his coaches’, not College Point’s, not Williamsport’s, that nearly cost his team its chance at a title.

But I think there is fault here and I think that fault lies with the basic rules that are set up by Williamsport. That any team can lose a game the way Bayside did does a greater disservice to the players on both teams than any rule Bayside may have been guilty of violating.

The Bayside-College Point game was not the only such instance of a rules violation turning a win into a loss in Queens this year. But hopefully there will be no more games decided by technicalities this summer. But that is a wish that will likely go unfulfilled.

Reach Sports Editor Anthony Bosco by e-mail at TimesLedgr@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 130.

Posted 7:15 pm, October 10, 2011
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