A tourney director's anguish

By Ivan Sanders

   Stepping out from the umbrella of being a writer and baseball coach, I decided I might try my hand at being the director of a 15-year-old Babe Ruth tournament held at Elizabethton High School.
   Needless to say, being a journalist is a lot less stressful and a lot more enjoyable, especially when being faced with a tough decision that affects kids that you have come to love.
   The Elizabethton 15-year-old team was denied the opportunity to go back and defend back-to-back state titles during this past weekend's tournament.
   Receiving a tough opening-round opponent in Avoca from Bristol, both teams fought tooth and nail in the opening game of the tournament, with Avoca prevailing by a 2-1 score in the bottom of the seventh inning.
   The game took four days to play thanks to the much-needed rain, but was finally completed. Needing to win on Saturday in an elimination game, the Elizabethton team came with game faces on.
   Battling Johnson City in the loser's bracket, the 'Betsy boys showed all the arsenal they could muster and were leading 9-4 in the sixth inning when a director's worst nightmare occurred.
   One of the young men from Elizabethton was given the heave by the field umpire. Knowing this young man, I just couldn't imagine him saying or doing anything out of line because his punishment at home would have been far greater than an ejection.
   The situation created confusion because the rule book of Babe Ruth doesn't directly address the situation of an ejected player as such.
   Calling upon the district commissioner for a ruling, the decision came to allow Elizabethton to re-enter a starter that had been replaced by a substitute earlier in the game.
   I needed assurance so the request was once again made for a clarification and the result was a final decision by the commissioner for the ruling to stand.
   The game resumed, and after completion of the contest Elizabethton prevailed 9-6 -- or so the team thought.
   Fifteen minutes after the contest, my nightmare turned into one even more dreaded than Freddy Krueger of Elm Street fame.
   Apparently the commissioner called the state director after debating the issue and called to inform me that Elizabethton would have to forfeit the contest. WOW!
   Imagine trying to tell a bunch of kids who have played their hearts out in 90-plus degree weather, and took a hard-fought win, that they were not the winners. Even more dejecting was the fact they were now eliminated from the tournament.
   This incident has led me to several thoughts about issues in youth baseball.
   Is it no wonder why kids rather play AAU baseball than fool with a organized league where the district commissioner is not knowledgeable enough to make a critical call in a matter such as this.
   Yes, having to forfeit a game you are leading in is hard enough, but having a ruling made at the point of question could have been more easily digested than having to be told 15 minutes after the game has ended.
   Secondly, maybe Elizabethton and Carter County should form their own league with rules that are more geared toward a favorable resolve for the kid's sake. In a situation like this maybe the games could be more enjoyable than games where the rules of a committee leave a lot of gray areas.
   Baseball has always had general rules since its inception, but where do we draw the line?
   There is a bad taste left as a result of this incident, but I take a little satisfaction in knowing that I have had the opportunity to know these young men, and I am very proud of their accomplishments the last two years.
   By the way, Avoca took the title, going undefeated in the tournament with the same Johnson City team also qualifying for state tourney along with the Avoca squad.
   Elizabethton can be proud, though, that they do have an entrant in state competition with the 14-year-old Babe Ruth all-stars qualifying in district play Saturday at Jefferson County.
   Good luck to manager Travis Hurley and the all-stars as they travel toward Memphis and begin play this coming Friday.
   Meanwhile, I guess that I will stay the course with just being a writer. It sure is a better view from the press table than the director's chair.