Suns notes - Suns make possible out of impossible

May 24, 1998

Protests of baseball games are upheld once in a blue moon.

There was obviously some lunar shading on Monday ... at least at the Kings Mountain, N.C., office of South Atlantic League president John Henry Moss.

Moss ruled in favor of the Hagerstown Suns in a May 13 incident which resulted in a four-run third inning, two ejections and a 5-2 loss to the Cape Fear Crocs. The last half of the game was replayed on Friday, resulting in a 4-3 Suns win.

"This was as clear cut as it could be," Moss said Friday via telephone from his SAL office. "It was an infraction of the playing rules and a misinterpretation of the rule by the umpire. If you read the rule, it was so clear cut, there wasn't much of a decision to be made."


Because of travel and frivolous motions in the past, protests are like crying "wolf" for managers. It is often heard, but no credence is given to the claim. Still, a lot of things went right for the Suns to win this decision.

"I haven't upheld that many protests in my 39 years as league president," Moss said. "I weigh my decisions on the experience of a lot of people involved. Your manager (Marty Pevey) did a great job of presenting his case and citing the rule which was violated, and we had one of the umpire development people there."

The incident occurred just after Cape Fear's Henry Mateo's one-out double drove in the tying runs in the third inning in the second game of a doubleheader. With the game tied at 2-2, pitcher Joe Casey got Milton Bradley to bounce a grounder to the hole at third base.

Third baseman Mike Strange took two steps over to field the ball while still in the baseline. As he went to make the play, Mateo ran into Strange, knocking him away from the ball. The ball rolled into left field and allowed Mateo to score the go-ahead run.

Pevey argued for an interference call with base umpire Brian Phillips, claiming Mateo was supposed to yield or run around Strange. By failing to do so, he should have been ruled out.

Phillips said the play was a judgment call and ejected Pevey and hitting coach Paul Elliott for arguing.

The Suns immediately indicated they would protest and Pevey had filed the paperwork by the end of the game. Hagerstown's protest received more validity when an umpire development representative, who randomly shows up at games to gauge the progress of minor league umpires, encouraged the Suns to file the protest.

"On the surface, the umpire checker's presence didn't make a difference in the case, but it reassured my decision," Moss said.

The Suns protested under rules 7.08 (b) and 7.09 (l), concerning runners intentionally hindering a fielder from making a play on the ball.

Because of the ruling, the game was resumed in Fayetteville, N.C., on Friday with the scored tied at 2-2 with two outs and Bradley on first base. Hagerstown came from behind with two runs in the fifth to win the game.

Moss admits he had little practice in dealing with protests, thanks to South Atlantic League rules.

"Protests are very rare," he said. "In fact, our league constitution has a rule which empowers the league president to fine any manager who protests two games in a year."

Moss said he had a managing friend who would protest almost any game he was losing, for no valid reason other than to protest.

"The fine eliminated the frivolous ones," Moss said. "There are still protests, but they are usually valid ones now."

It's in the stars

The South Atlantic League is getting ready to showcase one its brightest crops of players at one of the ballpark gems in the league.

Voting for the league's all-star teams ended Saturday. Moss said the announcement of which players will play in the June 16 event at Joseph Riley Stadium in Charleston, S.C., will be made later this week.

Moss has visited nine of the 14 cities in the league this season and was going to visit two more in the Southern Division this week. He plans to be in Hagerstown after the All-Star break.

The president is impressed with the talent in the SAL and says it only shows why it is the league of choice for farm directors to send their young talent.

After all, 385 South Atlantic League alumni are currently playing in the Major Leagues.

"We've got a lot of good bats and a lot of good pitching here this year," Moss said. "Once these youngsters get the opportunity to play more, it will show that 1998 will be one of the best years we've had for talent in this league."

Still hope and vision

A South Atlantic League All-Star game in Hagerstown?

It's not out of the realm of possibility. The SAL loves to showcase new stadiums, and if Hagerstown builds one in the coming years, there's no reason not to bring the extravaganza north.

"I think our All-Star game has become as exciting and festive as the Major League event," Moss said.

Moss continues to be an advocate of a new playing facility in Hagerstown. According to him, any new stadium would be good for the league and, more importantly, good for the area.

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