Sunday, August 3, 2014

Legionnaire disease

A few days have passed since the North Carolina American Legion baseball tournament concluded at Lexington's venerable Holt-Moffitt Field, with Shelby Post 82 ending up as the nominal state champion.

I say "nominal" because, on the field, where it should count, Shelby suffered two losses in the double elimination tournament. One of those losses was a 12-5 decision to Thomasville Post 87 last Saturday. The other was an 8-1 loss to Gaston.

But as the result of a protest, a couple of appeals and a curious — at best — ruling from the American Legion Baseball national office in Indianapolis, IN, Thomasville Post 87 was disqualified from the tournament for supposedly using an ineligible player, catcher Cesar Trejo.

Here's where it gets a little dicey, blurry and odorous all at once.

Shelby filed a protest alleging Trejo was ineligible because of his participation in something called the 2014 Under Armour Showcase: Baseball Factory's Team One South in Peachtree City, GA., on July 11-12.

Trejo only participated in baseball skills and did not play in any games. It's not as if he was a ringer waiting in the wings. That didn't matter to the American Legion, saying he was supposedly committing "dual participation" by attending the non-Legion event.

It's an event that the American Legion apparently sanctions, by the way. The American Legion receives $30,000 per year from Baseball Factory to provide names and addresses of players to showcase their talents to college coaches and scouts. American Legion sanctions only two bodies: Baseball Factory and Baseball USA. So what's the problem?

But it gets weirder. Shelby filed the protest after Saturday's game, saying it learned of Trejo's alleged transgression after Post 82 returned to its motel.

Huh? That soon? What, was there a note on the door? A timely email? A voicemail? Huh?

The suddenness of this protest, seemingly out of thin air, appears to be evidence in itself of supposed prior knowledge waiting to be sprung at the most propitious moment.

While that little nugget smells fishy enough, it should also be noted that tournament coaches and athletic directors were given an opportunity in a meeting on Thursday, before the tournament began, to question the eligibility of any player on any roster. Nobody spoke up. That, logically, should have been the end of it right there. No surprises. Door closed.

But, surprise anyway.

Thomasville athletic director Greg Suire eventually filed two appeals with the American Legion national office, and both were denied.

The American Legion response — coming from an office 600 miles away from Holt-Moffitt Field — was curious, at best.

In an article from The Dispatch, American Legion baseball national director Mike Buss said, "They could be partnering with American Legion. But I can also tell you that nowhere in the contract that we have with Baseball Factory is the company Under Armour. That's an issue that the lawyers can discuss.

"That is something that lawyers need to discuss, I'm not gonna get into what is sanctioned and what is not sanctioned," Buss added. "That is a situation that lawyers could talk about, and I can't really offer any more on that."

Well, that's pretty lame. Sounds like double-talk semantics. Furthermore, as national director, Buss better be darn sure what his organization sanctions and what it doesn't, otherwise debacle will follow travesty every time.

Even now, it looks as though the American Legion office is essentially ruling against itself. Oh, my.

And did you notice Buss used the word "lawyers" three times? Yikes. Youth baseball and lawyers. Mercy. If that's what we're coming down to, then I think we're all missing the point.

There's one more curiosity here. The American Legion World Series is held, annually, in Shelby. You don't suppose Shelby got that favorable ruling from the American Legion office because Shelby hosts the American Legion World Series with a state-of-the-art facility, do you? Nah. Of course not. Doesn't look like that at all.

What it does look like from here is a royal theft of Post 87's hopes and dreams. It looks like Post 82 will do anything it can to win a title, preferring even a clerical championship if it can't win one on the field. How satisfying is that? And it looks like the national office, swimming in conflicts of interest, is holding hands with the recipient of its favorable ruling.

Sad, sad, sad.


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