07/06/05 — OPINION: Amid chaos, questions need to be answered

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OPINION: Amid chaos, questions need to be answered

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on July 6, 2005 1:46 PM

This has -- undoubtedly -- been the most unorganized 30-plus days involving American Legion baseball teams in the Area I East Division ranks.

The saga -- or chaos, if you will -- started in the preseason when Area I Commissioner Joe Tobert conducted a meeting with the coaches and athletic officers, and said the season started May 14. He informed them they must complete their regular-season schedule by July 4. Some coaches raised their hands to express their concerns, which unfortunately fell upon deaf ears.

Obviously, someone forgot -- or didn't know -- that the high school playoff season began after May 14. A majority of the teams, regionally and statewide, advanced to either the regional or state level. Most finished by June 1, but some teams played through the first weekend of June.

As is normally the case, late-afternoon thunderstorms and heavy showers always prevalent with June rained out contests and left folks scrambling for make-up dates. A handful of games were rescheduled and played. Teams that couldn't find suitable dates were unable to complete their division schedule per Mr. Tobert's order.

Which brings us to now.

For the last two weeks, several coaches and athletic officers have left messages or sent emails about their plight. Tobert was nowhere to be found to answer questions and assist the coaches in resolving the matter of rainouts.

Four Area I East teams agreed to play make-up games Tuesday evening, one day after the July 4 cutoff. However, Tobert said that he had the eight-team field seeded by 4:30 p.m. Tuesday. He had no idea that Tuesday's results could affect the seeding.

When asked if he seeded the tournament by winning percentage, Tobert told the News-Argus that he had the eight teams that would make the playoffs. Tobert was asked on two more occasions if the tournament was seeded by winning percentage and if unplayed games factored into the equation.

Tobert, again, said he had the tournament field complete. He never explained the criteria used to determine the eight-team field. He never mentioned the two games scheduled for Tuesday. Tobert didn't say how he acquired a copy of the current standings. He refused to answer if the standings and seeding reflected games played through Monday evening.

Tobert's reply: "If you have a copy (of the standings), why do you need me?"

Once again, it's a situation where there are no set guidelines -- no existing handbook to answer these elusive questions. It appears judgment is used and facts, such as wins/losses and unplayed games, carry no weight in the overall decision.

It's also a case of disrespect toward players, coaches, communities and media. These folks take valuable time in teaching these kids the game of baseball, and tutoring them to serve as ambassadors for their respective towns.

They keep the rules, keep faith in their teammates, keep their temper, keep their pride under in victory and keep a stout heart in defeat. They keep a sound soul, a clean mind and a healthy body. In other words, they make the commitment to play a crammed schedule that not only tires them out physically, but mentally.

They give 100 percent.

The commissioner should, too.