Amid allegations of misconduct by volunteer coaches, the Liberty County Recreation Department board of directors voted Monday to disband the Mite League all-star baseball team.
According to LCRD Chairman Kenny Howard, some volunteer coaches allegedly conspired to not select several players who had the best statistics. The players in question played for the B&A Maintenance team, a team out of Walthourville that complied with all LCRD rules.
Several parents say the team’s selection process complied with the rules set forth by the LCRD and are upset that their children spent the entire weekend practicing for the Georgia Recreation and Parks Association District Games, which run from June 22-26, only to be told Monday the team was disbanded.
Everything came to a head Tuesday afternoon when the board, LCRD Director Jimmy Martin, Walthourville Councilwoman Luciria L. Lovette, Liberty County Commissioners Justin Frasier and Marion Stevens, volunteer coaches representing some of the Mite League teams and several angry parents gathered in the LCRD meeting room.
Martin explained the policies that are in place in regards to selecting an all-star roster, which he said were explained to every volunteer coach during their midseason meeting. According to the document, one of the criteria is each coach “will be expected to vote for the top 13 players” during their final meeting.
The coaches also evaluated players from midseason until the final vote and were given statistics based on the best batting averages throughout the Mite League.
B&A won nearly every game by the run-rule, yet the predominately African-American squad was shut out from the All-Stars’ selection when the first votes were cast. “Three of the top five batting averages were kids from the B&A team, and none of those players were selected to the All-Star team … it was blatant what they did,” Howard said.
Martin said he was taken aback a bit when he saw the first votes cast. The board and the LCRD met with the coaches again and asked them to remedy the situation.
“We told the guys this doesn’t look good … you guys boycotted the whole team, and it doesn’t look right,” Howard said. “What is disturbing is how it seems that the coaches somehow conspired to do this, and when we offered them the opportunity to fix the problem, they didn’t.”
Volunteer coach Tommy Carter said despite the good season B&A had, their team wasn’t subjected to the same type of evaluation process the rest of the league had to undergo.
Jeffrey Struble, who was selected as the Mite League All-Star coach, said the voting process was done correctly and other factors should be considered when picking an All-Star team.
“I want a kid who plays with heart, too, and he may not have the best batting average,” he said. “A batting average can’t tell you who can catch the best or who can run the fastest or throw the ball well.”
Kim Woodward Carter argued that the final roster had two players from the B&A team listed and added that giving the final roster to the coach and allowing the players to practice all weekend, but then pulling the plug on the team, was unfair to the boys.
“Why would you give the coach the roster and then take it all back?” she said. “My son made the all-star team, and now he doesn’t get a chance to play. Next year, he has to move up an age division, so he may not be the best player and has to start all over. It’s not fair.”
B&A Maintenance head coach Duane Johnson sat quietly throughout most of the meeting, but when it was his turn he spoke up, saying he believes the coaches got together and purposely kept his players from being selected. He said as the drama unfolded, he started to receive calls from some of the volunteer coaches, saying they were sorry they got sucked into the situation.
“When you pick an all-star team, you have to pick the best players that are going to go out there and represent the county,” Johnson said. “How do you think my kids felt knowing they should have been on that team? … And what gets me is that I have coaches calling me now saying they are sorry … now we have two sets of children that are hurt by the decisions made by adults.”
Martin agreed, saying, “I think the coaches were reacting to a situation they felt was unfair but chose the wrong way to express their frustration,” he said. “Not voting for a certain group of children because their team was too good is not the way to go. The procedures for selecting all-stars clearly state that the coaches will be expected to vote for the best 13 players, and in this situation they refused to do that. No one wants to see any children be hurt, but I think the actions taken by the recreation board were appropriate for this situation.”
Howard said the whole situation was disturbing, and the board will take corrective measures to ensure this doesn’t happen again.
“These adults got together to conspire against 9-10-year-olds … it is just unconscionable that grown folk would get together to conspire against kids like that,” he said. “When you have adults acting in this manner and do this and then you give them an opportunity to correct it and they still don’t correct it, well, that’s a real problem. We will hold these coaches accountable for this.”