Baseball: La Puente loses appeal to CIF to have its March forfeit to Azusa overturned; La Puente and Sierra Vista battle for first this week

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.”

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  • Big Dog

    Stop Crying and just play the game!

  • Joe Amat

    Fred (and Mr Candelaria),

    What exactly is “the spirit of the rule”. It’s NOT about “intent”. Just because you didn’t “intend” to break the rule does not mean it wasn’t broken and that you were within “the spirit” of such rule.

    Good rule or bad it is a coaches responsibility…ESPECIALLY a 1st year coach, to make SURE he knows the rules – inside and out. Most leagues choose to align their rules with CIF Playoff rules that are in place for a reason. This happens to be one of them.

    Fred, I know you think it’s a silly rule – but what if football teams were put at a disadvantage by not allowing the visiting team to have as long a warm-up and restricting them form throwing or catching passes. Or a basketball team that wasn’t allowed to take any outside shots before the game. Clearly, that would be an advantage to the home team.

    This rule is in place to provide equity between the home and visiting teams and it is every coaches responsibility to know the rules. Righteous forfeit.

  • Fred Robledo

    Spirit of the rule Joe, a cops not going to give me a speeding ticket for driving 38 in an 35. Though I’m legally over the limit, they know I’m not guilty of speeding. This coach may have broke the rule, but first year coach in his first league game, maybe you cut him some slack. It’s a severe penalty for an infraction that let’s be honest, has no direct outcome in the game. Why the penalty is so harsh to begin with is probably what bothers me the most. Why not a written warning for a first offense, at least the coach is “properly” put on notice, and so are his kids. Either way, the kids have nothing to do with it. Prior to this year the rule had been in place, but there was never a penalty for it. I doubt players knew the consequences of their actions would result in a forfeit. Everything’s not always black and white Joe, intent should mean something, we’re not talking crimes on the street, we’re talking high school sports.

    But if rules are rules, what’s the consequence if in fact Montview League principals were not adequately informed about the appeal prior to their league meeting as the bylaws state it should — what then? It sounds reasonable to at least revisit it, wouldn’t you agree? What harm would that bring?

  • Baseball Fan

    It seems like Coach Hermosillo was given plenty of notice about the rule when he attended the spring coaches’ meeting.

    He also voted in favor of forfeit being the penalty.

    It’s not complicated, he’s getting what he wanted.

    BTW Fred, you keep on rolling out the speeding by 3 mph example, but it’s not germaine to this arguement. Speeding doesn’t give you a competitive advantage over anyone else. You should think about putting that example to rest.

  • Steve Ramirez

    Joe, “spirit of the rule” is used by most professional leagues and organization, from MLB to NASCAR, who all examine each incident on a case-by-case basis. Fred might have used the wrong example, but his point is valid. I will do, as I did in the South Hills’ case, use the argument of the famous Pine Tar Game, involving George Brett and the Yankees in 1983. Brett hit a two-run HR to give the Royals a 5-4 lead. But Yankees manager Billy Martin protested to the umpire that Brett’s bat had violated rule 1.10 (b), which states that pine tar on a bat handle may not exceed 18 inches. The bat was measured and Brett ruled out, with the umpire invoking rule 9.01 (c), “The Umpire’s Prerogative,” which states each umpire has authority to rule on any point not specifically covered by rules. The Royals protested and league president Lee MacPhail overturned the umpire’s ruling, citing that “it was not in the spirit of the rule.” While McPhail admitted that Brett violated the rule (his bad had exceeded the 18-inch pine-tar rule), he didn’t violate the spirit of the rule nor had he deliberately “altered [the bat] to improve the distance factor.” I believe the same can be said for South Hills last May, and La Puente here. If it was an organized batting practice with some one throwing actual baseballs to every hitter in the line-up is one thing, two or three members of the team taking swings at whiffle balls is quite different, in my opinion, to force a forfeit. And there is also no sense to have this rule in a league where the teams are within 15 minutes of each other. The CIF-SS rule is in place, because “Team A” might be coming from three hours away and not have time to take batting practice, so since Team A can’t, either can Team B. But in a league where schools are within say 15 minutes of each other, there is nothing stopping Team A from taking batting practice at their school from 2 p.m. until 2:20, get on the bus and arrive at the host field at 2:45.

  • Baseball Fan


    The only thing preventing Team A from taking BP from 2:00-2:20 is being in class. Surely you can’t be saying that the students should be missing more class than they already do. Either way th ehome team can easily take a BP, while the visitors can not. Thus, it does make sense to have the rule for league play unless the game times are moved back.

    It’s very interesting that the AL president ruled spirit of the law over letter of the law in that one example from over 30 years ago. However, in this case the La Puente coach himself supported the letter of the law according to the always superb reporting of Fred.

    If Azusa didn’t protest correctly, perhaps it should be thrown out anyway. But based on Fred’s reporting it appears that Coach Hermosillo knew or should have known the rule and the penalty. As weak as it seems to forfeit a game over this, it’s just as weak for the coach to claim ignorance after all of the notice he recieved at the spring coaches’ meeting.

  • socalbaseball fan

    This rule has been in for many years and teams have lost cifss playoff games for illegal batting practice. Any baseball head coach should know this rule. It is a bad rule however rules are rules and everyone has to be on the same page. I remember in a D1 cifss playoff game Valley View won a forfeit game vs Lakewood on this rule. If i were a coach and saw this happening I would call over the other head coach and tell him to stop as this is a violation.

  • This issue cam up last year against South Hills, what was the out come Fred?

  • FredJ

    The outcome was South Hills did not have to forfeit, CIF invoking the “spirit of the rule,” by explaining they weren’t conducting an organized batting practice, which is the intent of having the rule in the first place.

    As far as Hermosillo voting a particular way as Baseball Fan keeps suggesting, maybe you’re a coach and have inside info, I’m not sure. But when I spoke to Azusa AD Gahring, all she said was that Hermosillo was present at the spring meeting, of which several things were discussed.

    Baseball fan, answer this, do you think the coach or the kids knowingly tried to cheat? And did they gain an advantage by two players hitting whiffle balls?

  • Baseball Fan

    Good question Fred. It seems like you’re talking about two different things, intent of the activity and ignorance of the rule, so I will address my opinion on both.

    For intent, we can’t know what the intent of the players and coach were because that would require mind reading. This is exactly why rules are made and consequences are determined beforehand. However, if I had to guess I would say that the players and coach were trying to prepare themselves for peak performance. They are trying to get any edge they can by preparing their bodies and minds for the game. They are trying to get ready to do their best and gain an advantage.

    The other part of the question is basically did they know that they were doing something illegal. Again, we don’t know what’s in their head. However, I think that the players probably didn’t know what they were doing was against the rules. They were just trying to get ready to play their best. As far as the coach goes, I don’t see how he couldn’t have known. He’s an adult and part of his job is to know the rules and teach the rules to the players. He was at the coaches’ meeting where this rule was specifically discussed and a penalty was attached to it. He was there.

    In general, I also don’t think that good intentions or ignorance should automatically pardon misdeeds.

    Maybe I’m reading you wrong, but it seems like you’re downplaying the benefits of what LP and SH did in warmups. There is a benefit to drilling overhand pitching before the game. It has more to do with eye focus and metronome timing exercises than hitting live pitching, but it is worthwhile. It’s not just like the whiffleball you played in your backyard. If it wasn’t a worthwhile activity, then teams would not be doing it.

    Since we’re having a nice exchange, I have a few questions for you. Do you really believe that the coach didn’t know the rule and the penalty despite being present at the spring coaches’ meeting? Who is responsible for educating the players on the rules?