Sunday, December 21, 2014

Babe Ruth boundary issues to blame?

7/16/2014

I was a member of the Ottawa Babe Ruth League Board before Loren Stewart’s brief presidency. Each year, we had issues with the boundary rule ... No, each year we had issues with parents respecting the boundary rule.

The Ottawa Babe Ruth League operated in conjunction with the Ottawa Recreation Commission. Years and years ago, the ORC allowed players who lived outside the Ottawa school district to register and play baseball in the Ottawa Babe Ruth League. Whether or not the Ottawa Babe Ruth League knew this, I don’t know. What I do know is that in 2008 we had an insurance issue arise that brought attention to the fact that players from outside our state-approved boundaries were participating in the Ottawa Babe Ruth League. We were notified at that time that this: A) nullified the insurance we were purchasing to protect our players; B) voided any game during which an ineligible player was on the field; and C) could have Ottawa permanently banned from the Babe Ruth League.

I was a member of the Ottawa Babe Ruth League Board before Loren Stewart’s brief presidency. Each year, we had issues with the boundary rule ... No, each year we had issues with parents respecting the boundary rule.

The Ottawa Babe Ruth League operated in conjunction with the Ottawa Recreation Commission. Years and years ago, the ORC allowed players who lived outside the Ottawa school district to register and play baseball in the Ottawa Babe Ruth League. Whether or not the Ottawa Babe Ruth League knew this, I don’t know. What I do know is that in 2008 we had an insurance issue arise that brought attention to the fact that players from outside our state-approved boundaries were participating in the Ottawa Babe Ruth League. We were notified at that time that this: A) nullified the insurance we were purchasing to protect our players; B) voided any game during which an ineligible player was on the field; and C) could have Ottawa permanently banned from the Babe Ruth League.

The real issue here was the second item: voiding any game during which an ineligible player was on the field. This would disqualify every player in the Ottawa Babe Ruth League from All Star contention because no one participated in at least 10 games (per the rules) in which there were no ineligible players. Not one player in Ottawa would meet the criteria to play the tournament trail as a Cal Ripken or Babe Ruth All Star.

Upon learning this, the Ottawa Babe Ruth League Board determined we had no choice but to immediately protect the integrity of our program and enforce the rules. I believe there were 17 players the first year that were told they could no longer participate in the Ottawa Babe Ruth League. There were a little more than 200 boys playing baseball in the program that summer.

Each subsequent year, parents complained. People lied. Some used the addresses of empty lots as their child’s home address. One family tried to put their son in legal custody of a grandparent living in a retirement home in town. Parents threatened to sue us as board members for not allowing their sons to play. One man sent me an email saying I should let his son participate because he “knows where I live.” Each year, we held fast to the rule and each year we petitioned the state to expand the boundaries.

Wellsville and Pomona have, in the past, participated in the Babe Ruth League. For a year here and a year there, they would charter and play. It was very difficult at the state level to allow Ottawa to expand to those areas when there was always the potential for those communities to form their own leagues. Leagues are not allowed to expand for the sake of “recruiting” and Ottawa has always had very strong and successful teams. From the state group’s perspective, there was no reason to allow our expansion. These same boundaries are used for — and enforced by — the American Legion baseball program.

This leads me to believe the problem is not the rules. The problem is that the last board of the Ottawa Babe Ruth League couldn’t uphold the mission statement of the Babe Ruth League as its members never developed an understanding of, nor respect for, the rules. Instead of telling a few players they could not participate because they do not live within the boundaries, the board decided to deny nearly 200 Ottawa boys the opportunity to participate in the Babe Ruth League.

Paula Willford,

former vice president

and secretary,

Ottawa Babe Ruth League

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