State Legion Baseball strikes out Hope MillsNorth Carolina American Legion teams rallying to abolish state rule book
HOPE MILLS — The Fayetteville News & Observer granted The Mountaineer permission to print this July 16 story and its Scholastic Sports Editor Earl Vaughn’s July 17 column from his blog regarding more questionable rulings from the state legion baseball office.
N.C. Legion team forced to forfeit two area II championship games
Earl Vaughn, Jr., Fayetteville News & Observer
HOPE MILLS — A media member in the Western part of the state once referred to American Legion baseball as “a cloak and dagger organization.”
On Wednesday, that dagger landed in the back of the Hope Mills Boosters American Legion baseball team.
After thinking it had avoided elimination from the state baseball tournament because of a clerical mistake, the team learned it had been stripped of two wins in its best-of-five Area II Western Division series with Morehead City Post 46.
Hope Mills now trails Morehead City 2-0 and must win three games in a row to advance to the state finals.
The decision was based on the apparent failure of Hope Mills manager Doug Watts, a veteran of 48 seasons in American Legion baseball, to list the name of pitcher Gatlin Pate of Gray’s Creek on the official roster submitted to national American Legion headquarters in Indianapolis.
Pate’s name appears on a copy of the roster mailed to The Fayetteville Observer on June 7. There is also confirmation from state American Legion baseball chairman Bob Figulski that Pate’s name is on a Form 2 required by the American Legion that includes information on a player’s age and residence.
Figulski sent an email to Watts and Jenna Henderson, the athletic officer for Morehead City Post, explaining his ruling.
The email was in response to an official protest Henderson filed with Figulski on behalf of the Morehead City team. Although Pate’s name was on the Form 2, which was submitted on May 29, Figulski said the absence of Pate’s name from the official roster made him ineligible for all games played in the series.
“I’m just so sorry a mistake by me has hurt the children’s best chance they’ve ever had of winning a championship,’’ Watts said. “It was just a mistake by an old man.’’
Hope Mills lost Monday’s third game of the series to Morehead City, 8-7. That was when the controversy began as Hope Mills protested Joseph Lewis of Morehead City violating the American Legion pitching limit of 12 innings in three days. It was during the protest process that the error of Pate’s name not being on the roster was first uncovered.
Figulski has now ruled Monday’s game a double-forfeit, since both teams were in violation. But he also ruled Hope Mills must forfeit both wins over Morehead City because Pate played in both games. That leaves Hope Mills 16-4 and Morehead City 16-7.
The winner of the series will take on either defending state champion Wilmington Post 10 or Whiteville Post 137 for the Area II title. That series has also been slowed by rain. Post 10 holds a 2-1 lead in the series.
Both teams who make the Area II finals automatically qualify for next week’s state tournament in Lexington.
Scholastic sports editor Earl Vaughan Jr. can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 486-3519.
Hope Mills Legion baseball ruling a travesty
by Earl Vaughn, Jr.
We can all be thankful that the folks who run North Carolina American Legion baseball aren’t in charge of the Atomic Energy Commission.
Or nuclear talks with Iran.
Or brokering peace between the Palestinians and the Israelis.
Because if they were, this old world would long ago have been reduced to a cinder as Armageddon would have broken out several times over.
In case you’re not keeping up with happenings, here’s the latest brilliant move by the folks who are the brain trust for the young men competing on American Legion diamonds in the Tar Heel state.
The Hope Mills Boosters have what their veteran manager, Doug Watts, easily calls the best team he’s ever fielded. Their 16-1 record after the first round of the state playoffs reflected that.
Then along came Morehead City Post 46 in the finals of the Area II Western Division playoffs. Hope Mills rolled to a pair of wins by a combined score of 17-5. On Monday, they dropped an 8-7 decision to Morehead City.
And that’s when the fingers started to hover on the buttons to blow Hope Mills’ season to pieces. It began when Watts legally protested a clear violation of Legion rules by Morehead City pitcher Joseph Lewis. As of Monday he had thrown 13 innings in three days, one over the American Legion limit.
Looked like a simple matter, until somehow in checking out the protest, somebody discovered that Hope Mills had not included the name of pitcher Gatlin Pate on its playoff roster. Never mind the fact Pate was on other rosters, including one emailed to The Fayetteville Observer on June 7.
His name also appeared on something the American Legion calls Form 2, which includes age and residence information on the player. That was submitted even earlier, on May 29. Unlike the rule on the pitching violation, which was open and shut, there was plenty of evidence available that showed Pate was a legal member of the Hope Mills baseball team.
In the initial ruling on the matter Tuesday, the state American Legion baseball folks took that information into consideration and decided Monday’s game was “a wash” and that Pate was ineligible for the rest of the playoffs.
But Morehead City athletic officer Jenna Henderson appealed the ruling. This time, the American Legion finger that was hovering over that fire button descended and pushed it.
State chairman Bob Figulski ruled Pate ineligible for the three games he played, meaning Hope Mills had to forfeit. Monday’s game was ruled a double forfeit, leaving Hope Mills down 2-0 in the best-of-five and needing three straight wins to stay alive and go to the state tournament.
Rules are rules, and if someone’s cheating to gain a competitive edge, I’m all for them getting busted for the maximum penalty.
But this? This is amputating a hand for a paper cut. This is killing ants with a sledge hammer.
This, put simply, is ridiculous.
You don’t beat a team 17-5 in two games by accident. Even in the game Hope Mills lost, they battled back from an early deficit on the road and fell by one run.
Now, even though we have documents that clearly show Gatlin Pate was an eligible member of this baseball team all season, you’re going to rob these kids the results of a hard summer of work because one person made a typographical error and didn’t include a name on one roster?
Rules are one thing. Justice is something else. And this is not justice. To take these wins from Hope Mills is a travesty.
The American Legion’s own rulebook says that one of the purposes of American Legion baseball is “to inculcate in youth a better understanding of the American way of life and to promote the principles of 100 percent Americanism.’’
If this ruling is an example of that, please book me a one-way ticket to Russia or Iran. It’s not the Americanism I’m familiar with.