As a Little League volunteer president, I hear it every season at about this time of year.
“Why in the name of heavens do you need all this paperwork just so my kid can play All-Star baseball. You need what kind of birth certificate? You need what kind of proof that he lives where he lives? Can I just give you his baseball stats and call it good?”
My answer is always the same. You can blame all of it on Daniel Almonte.
And then I catch myself. It really is not Daniel’s fault. The blame lies with a bunch of overzealous adults.
Let’s wind the sports clock back to 2001. Chances are, if your kid is playing All-Stars this summer with the hope of playing in the Williamsport World Series, he wasn’t even born when it all went down. According to a list of sports scandals, the Daniel Almonte deal ranks as the 7th worst sports scandal ever. Not quite as bad as the No. 6 Tonya Harding/Nancy Kerrigan figure skating feud. But, a little more scandalous than No. 8, NBA ref Tim Donaghy’s mess.
Anyway, Daniel Almonte and his 11/12-year-old Little League teammates from the Bronx made it all the way to third place in the world. The lefty pitcher Almonte was unbelievable. One-hitters. No-hitters. Lots of strikeouts. Everyone kept saying this kid is so good he can’t be just 12 years old!
Turned out that everyone who said that was right.
Just days after all those strikeouts, after all those TV ratings, after getting a key to New York City from politicians, it was discovered that Daniel Almonte was actually 14 years old. All that paperwork supporting his age as a 12 year old was a bunch of hooey. And a bunch of adults knew all along it was hooey.
Little League had a mess on its hands. And a big-time black eye.
The president of the league was kicked out of Little League Baseball forever. So too Daniel Almonte’s father. All those tournament wins, gone.
14-year-old Daniel was not punished. He didn’t do anything.
The head of LL, Steve Keener said at the time, “the players of this team were clearly used by adults in a most despicable way. They were deceived, their opponents were deceived and all of us in Little League Baseball were deceived.”
Little League immediately put in new rules and regulations to make sure it can be verified where and when a kid is born. And just as importantly, where the kid lives. The World Series teams you see on TV in August in Williamsport are supposed to be community teams. No outside ringers.
Almonte’s baseball career floundered after 2001. Limited success in college. A brief pro career in Independent League baseball. No major league team wanted to touch him. At last check, he was a volunteer coach at his old New York high school.
So, in this 11th summer since the scandal, I take the extra paperwork in stride. I know a lot of other LL volunteers do the same. We check it once. We check it twice. And then hope all adults are honest with the information.
I decided to google Daniel Almonte this week. Here’s the first thing that comes up on the screen…
Born: April 7, 1987
Birthplace: Moca, Dominican Republic
Best known as: Overage Little League star of 2001
Heck of a thing to be known for, huh?
ITEMS FROM THE DUFFEL BAG:
– Suppose we’ll see Jared Sullinger or Fab Melo playing at the Portland Expo this winter wearing a Maine Red Claws uniform?
– I’m thinking the Red Sox lead in at least one category — most players with uniform numbers over No. 50…The list includes Aceves 91, Kalish 55, Nava r6, Middlebrooks 64, Dubront 61, Mortensen 59…maybe Darnell McDonald and his 54 got designated for assignment because there is a limit on this rule.
– Kevin Garnett is taking a 50 percent pay cut to come back and play for the C’s…Suppose Big Papi David Ortiz will do the same? Yeah, right!
– Interesting sports media notes…Sideline rerpoter/Dancing With The Stars’ Erin Andrews is leaving ESPN and moving to Fox…CBS Radio Sports is starting a 24/7 national radio network and NBC Radio Sports will start more long form sports radio programming. This is in addition to ESPN Radio and Fox Radio. I’m thinking sports radio works.
– My Saturday morning read just won’t be the same…I tip my cap to the Old Dawg, Kent Ward. May I pay tribute to his wonderful work by ending my weekly thoughts with his ending…
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