The kids from Jackie Robinson West have suffered enough. The coaches, administrators and people inside the Little League on the other still need to be held more accountable. The Little League champions for America were recently stripped of that title. Any postseason suspensions or plans to punish the team further only hurts the kids. The adults need to be punished.
If a parent brings a child from out of the district allowed for a team, it is the League’s job, the coach’s job and the parent’s job to make sure that doesn’t actually happen. Parents want their kids to have an opportunity and give their kids the best chance to succeed, I get that. There’s a limit though. You can’t cheat, no matter how odd the rule. The Little League has boundaries so these kids can’t just go play for whatever team they want when they want. Parents need to be responsible enough to keep their kids in the specific zoning district.
The coach is worse than the parents but not as bad as the League. Coaches know where the districts end. Coaches should also know which kids are returning or coming in for the first time. However, there is also the issue that coaches are there to coach not be watchdogs over the rules. Should they know the rules? Of course, but I don’t think is solely on the coaches. The coaches needed to do their due diligence and make sure the kids were legit. Find a way to make sure the kids are either from where they say they are or know the districts better. If a parent writes a different city/district, the coach is inclined to believe that, but as the old adage says, “ignorance is no excuse”.
The worst offender here is the Little League. Jackie Robinson West beat a team by almost 40 runs in a postseason game. Now that doesn’t have to be a sign, but it should at least stand out. The team went on to be the champions of the American bracket. Again, not uncommon, but research and verification should have taken place much sooner than it did. The team loses in the Championship round to South Korea, 8-4. The League did its own investigation and in December announced the team did not cheat. Why then less than two months later are they back-tracking? Clearly the League did not do enough research or investigating. It took the work of a journalist to dig everything up. Everything that could go right for the kids did, they won the American bracket. However, for the League everything that could go wrong did, they won the American bracket.
If the team doesn’t reach the championship game, the story probably never comes out. Yet, they reached the championship and the story only became a bigger lie as time went on. The punishments for all parties is not equal, but should be carried out. The kids should not be punished beyond having the title stripped from history. The coaches and parents deserve some type of ban or fine. I don’t have a ban in mind for the parents, but for the coaches a ban of 2-3 years would be fair. The parents need to be held accountable because in the end they have to sign their kids up to play. Again, what that parental punishment is, I don’t know. The League needs to punish or fire the people who responsible for not doing their job, fact checking and verification of player eligibility.