At Little League® International in Williamsport, Pa., and at our Regional Offices, calls and emails come in all year long about different situations that are happening at some of our 7,000 local leagues. Many of these calls and emails inform us of some very positive initiatives spearheaded by our millions of volunteers. However, there are also negative situations.
“Don’t Let This Happen to Your League” details a real-world scenario, how it has impacted a league, and how you might learn from it.
The names have been omitted in the following scenario, but the situation is real.
The visiting team Manager, with a team roster of 12 players participating in a Little League International Tournament Major Division baseball game, does not enter two substitutes into the game by the bottom of the fourth inning in accordance with Tournament Rule 9. The manager is notified by both the tournament assistant overseeing operation of the game and the plate umpire, that there are two players on his roster yet to play defensively and bat once, but he elects to stay with his starters given his team trails by three runs and his team will have the top of batting order going into the fifth inning. Neither team scores in the fourth and fifth innings, so entering the top of the sixth and final regulation inning, neither batter is scheduled to bat and have yet to get into the game on defense.
The manager had previously coached in tournament play and said to his coaches that he understood the mandatory play rule and the penalty. Knowing they were playing in a double-elimination format, he told his coaches that he was willing to take the risk of suspension. Unfortunately for the manager, he was working from the assumption that the penalty for not meeting mandatory play was still a personal two-game suspension. Later, he claimed to be unaware of the change to Tournament Rule 9, which currently states that a manager is permanently removed from the team without replacement for failing to meet mandatory play. The team would lose the game where the violation occurred, and the manager was removed. The team rebounded to advance out of the consolation bracket and win the district championship. With one of the two official coaches assuming the managerial role, the team advanced to the state tournament with just the two adults. The greater disappointment for the manager who was removed was that his 11-year-old son was on the team.
The local league and the District Administrator and/or tournament director are responsible for outlining and explaining the rules and regulations governing the Little League International Tournament prior to the start of tournament play. It is typical for the District Administrator to invite all tournament managers and coaches to a meeting for the express purpose of reviewing all tournament specific rules and calling out those new or adjusted rules that commonly impact a game or, in the situation of mandatory play, the entire tournament season. It is incumbent upon these adult volunteers to be familiar with, and accountable to, the current rules. Little League is about opportunity and mandatory play assures that the chance to experience tournament play is protected for every tournament team member, regardless of how their participation impacts the outcome of the game.