When the Martinez-Evans Little League 9-10 Americans play against the home team in the District 6 championship round at Elbert County’s McWilliams Park Thursday, there won’t be local umpires involved.
That’s especially the case after what happened when the teams played Tuesday.
“I told them after the game the other night, my team would not play, absolutely would not, unless there were umpires there I had never seen before that were not from Elberton,” said Americans manager Robert Peel.
Tournament director Kim Bray gave assurances that locals would not be umpiring.
“They are all from out of town,” she said. “I just hope everything goes smoothly because it’s been stressful.”
Tuesday night, the drama started before the game when the umpire came into the dugout and challenged the Americans about equipment he said was illegal. That’s when Peel asked him where he was from.
“The guy (umpire) .. told me he was from Augusta,” said Peel. “Come to find out, he graduated high school with the district administrator from Elbert County High School.”
“I’m not aware of any of that,” said Little League District Six administrator Vince Fernandez of what the umpire told Peel.
Peel said he told the umpire privately that he wanted the game to be called fairly – and the umpire then ejected him before the game began.
With Peel off-site, the Americans (3-1) lost 12-6 to ECLL, but rebounded Wednesday to beat Masters City Little League 15-6 to reach the championship round. Woodie Melton was at the helm for the Americans, however, as Peel had to serve a one-game suspension because of the ejection. A win by the Americans Thursday would force a third and final meeting on Friday for the title.
MELL president Mike Daly was upset because the rule book states that local umpires should not be assigned to games that involve local teams.
“Should” is where the gray area starts the problems.
“According to what I was just told, it is up to the tournament director and the district personnel to assign the umpires for any particular tournament game,” wrote Little League director of media relations Steve Barr in an e-mail Thursday. “It is in the best interest to NOT assign an umpire from a local league to that local leagues tournament game, but it is not a mandate that they cannot umpire that game. I’m not going to say it happens in all cases like this, but normally the district umpire-in-chief makes the assignments.”
District Six does not have a district umpire-in-chief, which has been an issue for Fernandez.
“Our district has never had a district-wide umpire program,” Frernandez said. “I’ve been trying to get that done the past few years. Umpires work other places, they have jobs, so all the tournament directors are responsible for providing umpires. We have been trying to provide a district umpire plan which will send out umpires from a central location to different tournaments.”
Daly also was upset with the way Peel was treated. He went back on the field after the game, but was asked to leave because suspended managers are not allowed to be at the game site.
There were separate interpretations of the rule in the tournament rule book.
Daly quoted rule 4.07 which he took that to mean Peel should have been allowed to be with his team after the game from which he was ejected. Fernandez conferred with the region office in Warner Robins after the game and they interpreted a rule from T18 of the tournament handbook to mean Peel should not have been allowed to return to the game site until his suspension - which began immediately - was over.
With the previous drama behind him, Peel will be on the bench for the Americans Thursday.