Little League inquiry fielded by solo in-house PR player

WILLIAMSPORT, PA: Little League Baseball had been coasting off a

stellar year that included President Bush building a tee-ball field on

the White House lawn for league games, and being the subject of a movie

by best-selling scribe John Grisham.



But then the news broke that Danny Almonte, a pitcher who had thrown a

perfect game and carried his team to third place in the Little League

World Series, had lied about his age. Almonte had performed so well that

Major Leaguers Ken Griffey Jr. and Randy Johnson called to congratulate

him.



Little League's headache began when a Sports Illustrated reporter

uncovered that Almonte was two years older than he claimed to be. The

national press jumped on the story.



Little League Baseball handled all its PR in-house, setting up a news

conference that was held at its Williamsport, PA headquarters on August

31. At the conference, the president of Little League Baseball Stephen

Keener announced a number of initiatives to address the situation, and

make sure that it didn't happen again.



Little League said that it would work with the US State Department and

immigration officials to strengthen Little League's age verification

process.



Little League Baseball is also planning to work closely with the Bronx

division Danny Almonte played in to reorganize its leadership in order

to ensure that a similar situation is not repeated.



"Clearly, adults have used Danny Almonte and his teammates in a most

contemptible and despicable way," said Stephen Keener, president of

Little League Baseball at the conference. "We are certainly saddened and

angry that we were deceived. In fact, millions of Little Leaguers around

the world were deceived, as well as Little League as an

organization."



The seven-member voting committee of Little League Baseball unanimously

decided to make the Bronx team forfeit all its games for the season,

including the World Series, state, and regional play. In addition, it

banned Rolando Paulino, the coach of the team, and Felipe de Jesus

Almonte, Danny's father, for life.



Little League Baseball stopped short of revoking Paulino's Little League

charter, which includes a number of other teams. That was the most

severe penalty that the committee could have imposed.



"Revoking the charter would prevent hundreds of children in the league

from enjoying the positive benefits of Little League Baseball," said

Keener.



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