Legion Baseball: Post 87 appeal denied
The American Legion national office denied the Post 87 HiToms’ appeal in a two-sentence statement emailed Thursday morning.
The statement read:
“The National Appeals Board is in unanimous agreement that Post 87 HiToms player Cesar Trejo was in violation of American Legion Baseball Rule 6 D. Dual Participation, making him ineligible for post-season tournament play and in accordance with American Legion Baseball Rule 5 C. shall be disqualified and all games in which he participated be forfeited.
“The decision of the National Appeals Board is final.”
That ruling ended a turbulent five days for Post 87, which was forced to forfeit both state tournament games it participated in Friday and Saturday. In the days since, it has tried to halt the state tournament twice, which were both denied, and reopen the national appeal, which was granted Tuesday.
But while they were disappointed with Thursday’s ruling, the HiToms remained adamant about continuing to address the issue.
“Though I’ve said a lot of things that are in contradiction to the American Legion, we believe in this program,” said Greg Suire, the Post 87 athletic director. “We believe in what it stands for, and I believe in communicating to our kids what it stands for. … So, we’re not going anywhere. But we are going to push for change, and we’re going to push hard.”
The original protest came Saturday from Shelby after it lost to the HiToms 12-5. It claimed that Trejo violated Legion’s dual participation rule – which prohibits players from taking part in non-Legion-sanctioned events but doesn’t say what is and isn’t sanctioned – by participating in the 2014 Under Armour Showcase: Baseball Factory's Team One South on July 11-12.
State officials first ruled that Trejo was ineligible but the team would be allowed to continue. Then, after Shelby, the permanent host of the American Legion World Series, appealed to national officials, the whole Post 87 team was ruled ineligible Sunday morning, forced to forfeit the two games and eliminated from the tournament.
“I understand the rule they refer to, and it talks about loyalty,” said HiToms coach Rob Shore, who, along with Suire, emphasized his lengthy background in Legion baseball and respect for what it represents. “If I felt like Cesar was going to go put on another uniform for another team, that would’ve been it.
“He told me: This is where I’m going, this is what I’m doing – practicing, playing, doing some scrimmage-like scenarios in front of scouts. I didn’t feel like he was betraying us – and neither did his teammates. None of his teammates said, ‘I can’t believe he’s doing this.’ None of them said that. So, it wasn’t like he was breaking trust or loyalty.”
With Thursday’s outcome, the focus now is directly on Baseball Factory’s relationship with American Legion, with which it has a $30,000-per-year contract for access to Legion players for these events – which Legion promotes in its rulebook just four pages after the rule in question. Baseball Factory also is granted an exemption in the tournament rules and policies (which were ruled not in play in the HiToms situation).
The Lexington Dispatch reports Michael Buss, the national program director, said the sponsorship with Under Armour made the event non-sanctioned. However, in letters sent to coaches and ADs across the country, Buss encouraged players to also attend the Under Armour Baseball Factory National Tryout & Premium Video Program on Aug. 2 in Salt Lake City.
“There are a number of state tournaments still going on throughout the country,” Suire said. “Basically, the letter I received is telling me to make my kids ineligible. I don’t know how we can separate those two. How can they separate that? And they don’t want to answer the question.
“I’ll tell you that I was speaking with the Baseball Factory this afternoon. I’ll keep that conversation quiet, except for the fact that they don’t know how they’re going to handle the issue Saturday morning in Utah. What do they say if a Legion player walks up? They don’t know.”
But that’s little consolation for the Post 87 HiToms, who have six players from this year’s team who will be aging out, after perhaps their biggest win of the season. But they are determined to have these issues addressed – and hopefully resolved – and come back and prove themselves again on the field next year.
“We’re going to show up again next year, because that’s what American Legion baseball has taught me in my years,” Shore said. “That’s what I’ve learned from playing and coaching: We’re showing up again next year. That we don’t fold. That we believe this is wrong. And for us to fold and go do something else would just be totally opposite of where we’ve been.”