WARNER ROBINS -- Peachtree City’s disqualification from the Little League Baseball tournament series isn’t a first.
It wasn’t the first disqualification involving issues other than the eligibility of players directly involved in the tournament.
Nor will it be the last.
The disqualification, which led to Columbus Northern gaining admission to the Southeastern Regional tournament this week, seemed harsh. It was issues regarding the structure of the league, from the registration of coaches to the way the regular-season rosters were set up, that resulted in Peachtree City’s ouster.
Did Columbus Northern, which saw its season end for the second time Wednesday in an 8-7 semifinal loss to Virginia, put together a respectable showing at the regional? Absolutely.
Was disqualification fair to Peachtree City’s kids, who did absolutely nothing wrong? No.
Did the Little League headquarters in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, have any other form of recourse available? Probably not.
Little League, which at one time received little more attention than a once-a-year appearance on ABC’s “Wide World of Sports” has become an ESPN staple during the month of August. More kids play on national television, and softball is getting TV time, as well.
Like most youth sports associations, Little League runs into its fair share of rules challenges and eligibility issues. But with ESPN involved, the issues and challenges are magnified.
Remember Danny Almonte? He helped lead a team from the Bronx to Williamsport in 2001, only to be found to be too old after the fact.
International teams have faced several issues. A team from the Philippines won the 1992 World Series, only to forfeit to Long Beach, California, later because of player eligibility issues. And Chinese Taipei went several years without sending a team to Williamsport in a dispute regarding league boundaries.
The Taipei controversy likely set the precedent for Peachtree City’s disqualification. Little League wants to keep its leagues as much of a neighborhood game as possible. The larger the league in terms of geography, the reasoning goes, the more likely the chance a team of all-star “ringers” can be formed. And that would throw off Little League’s competitive balance.
Little League doesn’t want to be caught in the position of disqualifying teams after the fact. Kids only get one -- maybe two if they’re lucky -- chances to get to Williamsport. Having an ineligible team playing in Williamsport, like the Philippines in 1992 and the Bronx in 2001, makes Little League look bad. With ESPN having its lens on an ever-growing number of games, it’s in Little League’s interest to catch issues sooner, rather than later.
Disqualification is a hard call to make. One way or another, someone is going to be wronged. But Little League has been down this road before. And a disqualification heading into Williamsport would have been much more cruel than a disqualification heading into Warner Robins.
Contact Ron Seibel at 744-4222 or firstname.lastname@example.org