From the Press Box Column

High Point Post 87 gets booted from state tourney

By Chuck Fiebernitz | Jul 29, 2014

Lately, no one is talking about who will win the the North Carolina American Legion Senior Baseball Tournament in Lexington and represent the state in next week’s Southeast Regional.
All the conversation, however, surrounds the controversy of High Point Post 87’s baseball team, which was ruled ineligible and kicked out of the state tournament on Sunday following an appeal to the national American Legion office in Indianapolis by Shelby Post 82.
Oh boy, here we go again. Another North Carolina legion team forfeits its season and another legion team from the “Good Old Boy Network” picks up an easy forfeit win.
Here is what happened. A Saturday night protest surrounding High Point catcher Cesar Trejo was denied by the state office. Then appealed by Shelby to the national office on Sunday, which overruled the state’s ruling, forcing Post 87 to forfeit two American Legion state tournament victories.
And in any double-elimination tournaments, you lose two, you go home to barbecue.
This ruling eliminated the Post 87 HiToms from the tournament and put a monkey wrench in the brackets. It is an absolute mess down in Lexington.
“We feel there was a tremendous amount of hypocrisy in this decision,” Post 87 HIToms president Greg Suire said in my conversation with him Monday night. “We did not do anything to gain an unfair advantage on the field and we feel we followed all the rules as we understood them. We’re very disappointed for our season to end in this way. I am sure the folks in Western North Carolina who support Haywood Post 47 feel the same way.”
Trejo played a key role (three hits) in Post 87’s 12-5 thumping of Shelby on Saturday.
Then the postgame manevering began. Shelby officials claimed to have learned that Trejo had taken part in an UnderArmour baseball workout earlier in July in Peachtree, Georgia. According to one area commissioner, Shelby claimed to have Googled the information on Trejo.
Really? Who does this?
Hey guys, let’s Google every player on the team that just hammered us to see if we can get information to file a protest and pick up an easy win. Really?
According to Suire, N.C. Chairman Bob Figulski publically asked every team at the pre-tournament meeting if they had information about any player in the tournament that could result in a protest or a forfeit. And if they did, to speak now.
“Shelby officials remained silent,” said Suire.
Moving on, the National office ruled Trejo violated American Legion (national rule) dual participation rules. Hence, Trejo was considered ineligible and Post 87 was booted from the tournament.
Suire pointed out the rule in question can be found on the American Legion Baseball 2014 Tournament Rules and Policies page on the website. Which by they way, does not list the North Carolina Legion Rule book to download. I just thought you would like to know that.
The rule, found on Page 5, point 5, reads:
“Once American Legion Baseball tournaments begin (District play through World Series play) no player can participate in another amateur baseball event, unless that program has been sanctioned by The American Legion. Currently only Baseball Factory and USA Baseball events have been sanctioned.”
My calls placed to the national office regarding their decision on disqualifying Post 87 have not yet been returned.
In mid July, Trejo attended the UnderArmour workout. He did not play in a game or join a showcase travel team. All he did was work out before college scouts, which was “sanctioned” by the Baseball Factory, an organization that has partnered with American Legion baseball since at least 2009.
“The national guidelines and the national tournament guidelines are two different sets of rules,” Suire explained. “Apparently, Trejo’s appearance at the workout was deemed to violate one set of rules but not the other. The American Legion gets $30,000 from the Baseball Factory and our national office shares information with this group. Yet a player can appear at one of its events and later be ruled ineligible. There is a misconception of what exactly our relationship is in regards to the Baseball Factory and American Legion baseball. What is and what is not dual participation.”
Though not participating in the tournament any longer, Post 87 players and coaches arrived at Holt-Moffitt Field before the time of their originally scheduled game. They were greeted by friends and family who applauded them as they entered the facility.
“I passed out our badges to all of our kids so they can go over to the tournament so our faces can be seen and people there will understand that we have nothing to hide,” said Suire. “Because there is nothing to hide. Every single kid on that team did everything we asked them to do all year.”
Suire appealed the national office’s ruling on Sunday, but that appeal was denied. Suire said he was still weighing legal and other options.
According to N.C. Area IV Commissioner Rocky Bennett, the state was going to allow High Point to continue to play in the state tournament. But without Trejo.
“Our ruling was to leave High Point in the tournament but make the player in question ineligible,” said Bennett. “The national office over-ruled us after Shelby made an appeal to their office.”
That final ruling abruptly ended Post 87’s season.
“What has happened to teams like Haywood Post 47 and the Hope Mills team and now to our team has given a black eye for American Legion baseball,” Suire said. “It’s disappointing for the kids.”
All I can say ... Welcome to the club High Point Post 87.