Controversy over a rule in the Little League Baseball regulation book has embroiled Kathryn Finley, her 11-year-old son David La Croix, and officials of the Annandale Little League in a rhubarb worthy of any baseball fan's attention.
Officials of the league, Finley says, are trying to force David to move from his present minor league team to a major league team, but David doesn't want to make the move.
"When (Jim) Pagano (the league's player agent, who assigns the players to teams) called me about this, he said they'd break David in slowly, that David would only get to play the last two or three innings of each game. I think David will be better off by staying where he is because he'll get more playing time," Finley said.
"David's rather small for his size, and the boys in the majors can overpower him at the plate," she said. "I'm afraid he'll get frustrated if he moves up too soon, so I want him to stay where he is."
Dennis Inguagiato, coach of the White Sox majors team in the Annandale Little League, said of David, "He's a good athlete, and I just lost a kid off my team whose parents went on vacation. So after scouting David, I decided that he'd be a good addition to my club."
Finley is scheduled to appear before the nine-member Board of Directors of the Annandale Little League tonight at 8 p.m. to formally plead her case.
David, who plays catcher the infield, and who also pitches for the Lincolnia Lions in the A-Minor league, says, "I don't want to go the majors and only play for half the game, I like the guys I'm playing with now, I don't want to move up.
Section eight of the rulebook says minor league players "are subject to selection by draft or auction by any major team of the local league.Refusal of a player to comply shall result in forfeiture of further eligibility for the current season."
League President Arnold Abriss said David's refusal to move up to the White Sox is a clear violation of the league's regulations, but he and other members of the board voted to let David continue playing this season with this present team.
But not without sanctions. According to Abriss, the board, while agreeing David would remain with the Lions this season, voted unanimously last week not to let him play ball in the majors next season.
"Baseball is like life," said Abriss. "Once a child starts going against the rules with impunity, he can begin to think he's special. We've got over 300 kids in this league, and if we let David break the rules, all the other kids might want to do the same thing. We can't maintain the league without some rules," he said.
The league is divided into three levels of competition. The A and B minor lelagues are basically instructional in scope, and are mainly for children aged 8 to 11 years of age. The major league is for the more advanced 11-and 12-year-olds.
Finley said she might go to court to keep the league from barring David from the major league next year.
When asked if she knew the rules before allowing David to compete in the league, Finley said, "We've had children in the league for the last six years, and I never heard that rule before. But since this happened, I've heard about it. But I don't think it's applicable in this case."
Pagano sai. "The rule itself hs been invoked on several occasions in the last six years, due to failure of certain parents or youngsters to comply, but after it was explained to the persons involved as to why we have (the rule), in every case the kid moved up to the majors."
Said Abriss, "It would be nice if the parents cooperate with us; we've got dedicated, knowledgeable volunteers helping us run this league, and more than half the parents don't even participate on a meaningful level, or offer to help us out."
"We wouldn't force any kid out of the league, and this year's board doesn't have any power to force next year's board not to let David play in, the majors. But we recommended unanimously that he not be allowed to. We've got to do what's best for the league."