When Brodie Downs set out to coach a major division team for Manteca Little League this season, he had a proposal for the board: Let him bring nine players from nearby Ripon that wanted to be coached by him and allow the rest of the team to be filled through the standard Little League draft.
And according to Downs, a Modesto-native that spent almost a decade as a professional baseball player in the minor leagues, the board – operating under a different President – agreed to the request.
But after concerns started to mount about the fairness of the proposal by parents within the league, and a shake-up on the board that forced the President that signed off on the request out of the top spot, a decision by District 67 – the regional governing body for local Little League charters – this past weekend essentially shut down the TOC-bound team with a decision that could have drastic consequences for Manteca Little League as a whole.
While the sanctions for rules violations have not been determined, Little League International could potentially pull Manteca Little League's charter over the flap after determining first whether the administrator that signed off on the coach's request knew that it was against Little League regulations. Considering the change at the top of the board's hierarchy, a punishment that severe seems improbable, although the eligibility of team members for postseason play is likely to be in jeopardy.
“The whole reason that we came to the board with the request in the first place is because we wanted these kids to be able to play Little League and not travel ball – travel ball is ruining Little League right now and we thought this would be a way to teach some of the fundamentals of baseball but within Little League itself,” Downs said. “It’s been pretty brutal on the kids to know that all of their hard work isn’t going to pay off. There’s no reason that these kids, who have worked hard, should be excluded because of a decision that was made by somebody else.
“That’s just not fair to them or to their parents for all of the time and work that they’ve put into this season.”
The regulation that that the Major Dodgers is said to have violated, Regulation V(d) in the 2018 Little League Rulebook, states that “teams are not permitted to enter the Little League program intact, or nearly intact, from non-Little League programs.” Because the Major Dodgers had nine of their players already set before the season started, it appears they were in violation of that rule. The rulebook also states that “under no circumstances will any team or group of players, which did not play on the same team for the previous regular season in the same division of a chartered Little League, be placed together onto a regular season team in that local Little League.”
Downs believes that regardless of the rule infraction, which he said he knew nothing about and even took the steps to make his request to the board months in advance of the start of the season to avoid this type of issue, it isn’t fair to the kids themselves to be banned from playing in the tournament of champions and possibly the entire postseason when it was the board that made the decision to allow them to play.
According to an email Downs received from Paul Zwicky, the District Administrator for District 67, the infraction that the team is believed to have committed does not have an appeals process, and after review the disqualification of the team stands.
District officials declined to comment to the media on the matter according to an email that Zwicky sent to Downs that noted that “Little League International has a strict policy of media communication without their involvement” and added that they have been notified about the matter.
As things currently stand, an investigation is still underway with decisions yet to be handed down about the team’s postseason future as part of the Manteca Little League All-Star selection from positions potentially as high as the Little League Office in Williamsport, Pennsylvania. In correspondence between District 67 Assistant District Administrator Russ McLeod and Downs’ wife Nicole, McLeod wrote that “what we as a district are doing now is trying to save Manteca Little League from losing their charter, which means it’s not just the 12 players on the Dodger team but the other 200 plus players that had nothing to do with what these select adults chose to do, including your current Dodger manager that night.”
The Dodgers are currently in first place in the Manteca Little League major division and would have been eligible to continue on playing in the Tournament of Champions to see where the team stacks up against other teams from other charters within the district. With the recent ruling, the team will not be permitted to advance beyond the regular season. Whether the players will be impacted for individual postseason play – whether they’ll be able to be selected for the All-Star team – will be a decision handed down potentially by the end of the week.
Representatives from Manteca Little League, including the Interim Board President, declined to comment on the matter, instead deferring to the International Little League office per the advice of District personnel. Phone calls to the Western Regional Little League office in San Bernardino and the National office is Williamsport were not returned by press time.
To contact reporter Jason Campbell email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 209.249.3544.