By Fred J. Robledo, Staff Writer
The La Puente High school baseball team lost an appeal to the CIF-Southern Section Executive Committee last week hoping to overturn its forfeiture of a 3-0 win over Azusa on March 22. La Puente was forced to forfeit its win over Azusa after Azusa filed a protest that was upheld by league principals in a 4-2 vote in March.
Azusa protested that La Puente conducted an illegal batting practice on the day of the game, which is against league bylaws.
La Puente coach John Hermosillo admitted the mistake, explaining that two of his players were throwing over-hand with a whiffle ball prior to the game. However, Hermosillo, a first-year coach in his first league game, said he was unaware of the rule at the time. (to continue click thread).
Fred’s reaction: I feel the same way now as I did when learning of the forfeit. First, Candelaria is absolutely right, La Puente was not in violation of the spirit of the rule. The La Puente team was not trying to cheat or gain an advantage, they had been doing the same thing all year in non-league and tournaments. Why Azusa officials did not simply walk over to the first year coach and explain to him that what his team was doing was against league rules is difficult to understand. That probably would have been the end of it, and it would have reflected well on Azusa, showing a great deal of sportsmanship for a coach in his first league game. It would have said, “what you’re doing is wrong, but we’ll give you the benefit of the doubt this time.” But, by choosing to enforce the letter of the law on a rule that had no direct outcome of the game feels like another example of adults taking the game out of kids’ hands. South Hills was in violation of this very thing in last years playoffs, also using a whiffle ball. But CIF chose not to make them forfeit a game for the same reasons I stated, because South Hills wasn’t trying to cheat or gain an advantage. It wasn’t in violation of the “spirit” of the rule. If you’re an administrator or principal, these are the things you have to ask yourself when making these rulings. Otherwise, it looks like adults taking away what kids earned on the field. I know rules are rules, which is probably why the principals should revisit the case. If, as principal Smalley suggested that proper protocal wasn’t taken in filing the protest, then the protest should be thrown out, right? If rules are black and white with no wiggle room left for interpretation, then maybe this should be overtuned.
CIF has a similar batting practice rule in place for baseball and softball playoffs, but not during the league or tournament season. Some leagues, like the Montview, have adopted CIF’s illegal batting practice rule for league play.
The forfeiture could cost the Warriors a share or the outright league title.
La Puente (13-6, 8-2) is in a tight race for the league title with Sierra Vista (17-3, 9-1), whom they will play twice this week, at Sierra Vista today at 3:15 p.m., and again on Thursday at La Puente.
Instead of being tied for first place, the forfeit leaves the Warriors a game behind the Dons, needing to win twice this week to take over sole possession of first.
La Puente athletic director Andrew Candelaria said principal Ava Smalley appealed the Montview League’s March forfeiture ruling to the CIF Executive Committee for two reasons:
First, he felt the Warriors baseball team was not in violation of the “spirit” of the rule, which is to gain an unfair advantage. And second, he said proper protocol was not taken in filing the protest, which is what Smalley wrote in her appeal to the Executive Committee.
“The grounds for the appeal pertain to the procedures followed by Azusa High School once the violation was evident,” Smalley wrote to the Appeals panel. “Specifically, it has been stated that the head coach (Hermosillo) was not notified of the protest, the principal (Azusa’s John-Steven Coke) did not sign the protest, and that the Montview League principals were not adequately informed about the appeal prior to a league meeting to discuss the matter.”
Azusa athletic director Sandra Gahring disputes that Hermosillo wasn’t notified of the protest prior to the game.
“He (Hermosillo) was notified that we were protesting,” Gahring said.
Candelaria said Hermosillo was notified by the head umpire that what he was doing was illegal after Azusa brought it to his attention, but that Azusa never formally filed a protest prior to the game.
“In short, he (Hermosillo) was told that taking batting practice was illegal by the (home umpire), but it was never indicated to him that Azusa was protesting,” Candelaria said. “We were the home team, they never came to our (home) book or head coach and indicated they wished to protest. We found out the next day.”
Gahring also said that Hermosillo was at the spring coaches meeting in which they discussed the “illegal batting practice rule,” and ruled in favor of a forfeiture as penalty.
Prior to this season, the batting practice rule had been in place for a long time, but there was never a penalty for it, Gahring explained.
“We voted on the penalty just this spring and all the coaches were there,” Gahring said. “I don’t want to punish kids, but rules are rules and this was something that just came up and we voted on.”
Executive Committee member Nancy Billinger ruled on the decision to deny La Puente’s appeal, but left the door open for the principals to re-visit the case before the league season is finished next week.
“Although there may be valid concerns related to the procedures followed once the violation was known, it is evident that a violation did occur and that the principals had an opportunity to discuss and vote on the matter,” Billinger wrote. “For that reason, the decision is to deny the appeal and sustain the decision of the league and commissioner.
“The representatives of La Puente stated during the meeting that the vote of the principals may have been different if there had been ample notice prior to the meeting on the facts of the case. If the league principals were to reconvene and reach a different conclusion, the CIF Southern Section office would support the league’s revised decision.”
Candelaria is hoping the principals will revisit the issue later this week or early next week in hopes of reversing their initial ruling.
Candelaria said if the league wants to go by the letter of the law, then they’re in violation of not adequately informing the principals about the protest prior to the league meeting.
“We were having a regular monthly meeting and this (protest) came up in front for them (principals) to rule on without all the facts or prior notice explaining the reasons for the protest,” Candelaria said. “That not how our bylaws say to do it. The principals should have been notified prior to the meeting so they could have more facts before ruling. That’s why we feel like they should revisit it.”