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Little League Announces New  Eligibility Standards And Verification Procedures

WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. (Dec. 11, 2001) – Standards and verification procedures for eligibility of players in all levels of Little League Baseball and Softball have been strengthened for the 2002 season, it was announced today by Stephen D. Keener, President and Chief Executive Officer of Little League Baseball.

Strengthening the process became necessary following the conclusion of the 2001 Little League Baseball World Series when a player (Danny Almonte) on the Rolando Paulino Little League team from the Bronx, N.Y., was found to be ineligible. The team finished third in the 2001 Little League Baseball World Series, but subsequently forfeited all of its victories after the ineligibility of the player was established. 

“We took a long and careful look at all of the standards and verification procedures,” Mr. Keener said. “We also reviewed hundreds of suggestions from Little League volunteers from around the world, and we consulted with many authorities, including those in the U.S. government. Although we believe the incident following the Little League Baseball World Series was an isolated one, we felt it necessary to take proper steps to help ensure it is not repeated.”

Eligibility of Little League participants pertains to the player’s age, residence of the parent(s) or legal guardian, and, for tournaments, the additional requirement to participate for at least one-half of the regular season in the local league as of June 15 of the year in question. Participation in a game by a player who is ineligible for any of these reasons may result in forfeiture of one or more games, as well as individual punishments for those responsible, by action of the Charter Committee at Little League Baseball International Headquarters.

Regarding age, in previous years, an original statement or certificate issued by a government authority was acceptable, regardless of the date of issue. Starting in 2002, the date of issue (or record date, registration date, file date, etc.) of the original birth document must be within 30 days of the date of birth. For those parents not able to produce such a document, several other supporting documents will be required for their child to become eligible, including notarized statements from several persons with personal knowledge of the child’s actual birth date (such as doctors, hospital administrators, clergy, etc.).

Regarding residence, a new tournament rule has been added which requires a participant to be a citizen of the country in which they wish to play, to be eligible. Exceptions are made only if (1) the participant is in the country legally on a visa that allows him or her to be in that country for a period of at least a year or, (2) the participant is in the country legally through prevailing laws allowing him/her to be in the country for at least a year or (3) the participant has established a continuous residence in that country for at least two years prior to the start of the regular season.

The tournament affidavit, the document carried by every tournament team manager, has also been updated. Previously the affidavit only listed the players’ names, dates of birth, addresses, and the team for which they played in the regular season. The new affidavit will require separate statements for each player, attesting to eligibility under all three conditions (age, residence and participation). In addition, the team manager will be required to carry photocopies of the original birth records for each player, as well as a map showing the location of the residence of each player’s parent(s) or legal guardian.

“I am confident that these new standards and procedures will be well received by the 1 million volunteers of Little League around the world,” Mr. Keener said. “We all realize that no procedures can be 100 percent effective. To a large extent, we must continue to depend upon the honesty and integrity of the adult volunteers at the local league level to ensure a level playing field.” 

Danny Almonte was declared ineligible by the Little League Baseball Charter Committee on Aug. 31, when it was determined that he was 14 years old. Little League rules require that eligible players must be no older than 12 during the regular season, and cannot turn 13 earlier than August 1 of the year in which they are competing. 

Little League officials in New York, in the Mid-Atlantic Regional Tournament, and in the Little League Baseball World Series that ended Aug. 26 in Williamsport, were provided with government-issued documents asserting Danny Almonte was born April 7, 1989. Another document, shown to Little League officials the day after the World Series ended, was also issued by the Dominican Republic government, indicating he was born on April 7, 1987.

The national public records office of the Dominican Republic concluded an investigation on Aug. 31, determining that the correct date of birth for Danny Almonte was in 1987, meaning he was 14 years old. It also concluded that the document listing the later birth date was obtained illegally.

It was also discovered, after the Little League Baseball World Series ended, that Danny Almonte had entered the U.S. on June 28, 2001. Media reports said school records in the Dominican Republic indicated that Danny and another player on the Rolando Paulino Little League team (Francisco Peña) attended school there during the spring and into late June, meaning they could not have played half of the regular games for the Rolando Paulino Little League in as of June 15, 2001, as required by Little League rules.

As a result of Little League's review, Rolando Paulino (a team coach and officer in the local league) and Danny Almonte’s father (Felipe de Jesus Almonte) were indefinitely removed from any further involvement or association in the Little League program worldwide. No action was taken or is being contemplated against Danny Almonte or any other players on the team.

“The players of this team were clearly used by adults in a most despicable way,” Mr. Keener said. “They were deceived, their opponents were deceived, and all of us in Little League Baseball were deceived.”

Although the charter for Rolando Paulino Little League was not revoked, an internal review of the local league management and operations continues. The results of the review will have a bearing on whether teams from the Rolando Paulino Little League will operate in 2002, and if it will be permitted to take part in playoffs.

“One of our tasks is to find competent leadership in the Bronx to assume the administration of the local Little League,” Mr. Keener said. “It is imperative to send a message to the thousands of children there that they do have adults in their community who are willing to play by the rules and act in their best interests.”

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