Defending champion shut out of H.S. baseball tourney in Europe
June 8, 2008
When the Big Dance for high school-age baseball arrived in Europe over Memorial Day weekend, Naples and defending champion Rota had no need for dancing shoes.
"I called all season to see about coming back," Rota schools officer Richard Doughtry said last week by telephone. "They said they had too many teams."
"Too many" translated to 12 when the pool-play event, eventually won by the Ramstein Rockets, opened at Ramstein. The Rockets were one of two teams from Ramstein; the others in the field were Grafenwöhr, Heidelberg, Hohenfels, Mannheim, Schweinfurt, Spangdahlem, Stuttgart, Vogelweh and Wiesbaden in Germany along with Schinnen, Netherlands.
High school-age baseball in Europe is run by Youth Services and not by the school system, and because of that Youth Services, based on its own assessments, is at liberty to exclude schools that might want to play.
"We wanted to have a 12-team, pool-play tournament," Kaiserslautern Military Community sports director Allen Fleming, the tournament director, said Friday. "We only have two fields and wanted to have all our regular-season teams. You can’t accommodate everybody."
Naples, Italy, which like Rota, Spain, is hindered by its distance from other schools from playing a regular-season schedule against teams in Germany, found itself rejected, too.
"I e-mailed them asking to play, but they said they already had a full field," Naples coach Jim Hall said by phone on Tuesday, "I figured because I asked late, in early April, it was my fault."
Rota’s bid also was complicated by Fleming’s refusal to allow Rota to field eighth-graders. They had five on this year’s 13-player roster.
"Safety is our main concern," Fleming said. "I didn’t want an 18-year-old senior pitching to 12-year-olds."
The Admirals won the seven-team 2007 event hosted by Hohenfels with five eighth-graders on its roster.
Although just two players from that team were on the 2008 roster, Doughtry said not having a chance to defend their title stung the Admirals. "They were disappointed," he said.
Rather than let the hurt fester, however, Doughtry arranged for the Admirals to play their season-ending games in southern Italy.
"I used to be stationed in Naples, and I knew they had a tournament," Doughtry said,
Denied a berth in Germany, Hall went about organizing the seventh annual Memorial Day event in Naples. Rota, after being victimized on arrival by a smash-and-grab robbery in a restaurant parking lot and daylong rental-vehicle delays, joined Hall’s Naples Wildcats and three Italian youth teams — Caserta, Napoli and Nettuno — in the tournament. After downing the Italian teams, the Admirals concluded their visit with a three-game series against the Wildcats.
The teams split the first two games, with Naples winning the finale, 10-6.