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Little League will keep charter

April 02, 1999|By BRENDAN KIRBY

Officials at Little League headquarters in Williamsport, Pa., have decided not to suspend the charter of Hagerstown's National Little League but have expressed concern over internal strife that has driven parents into opposing camps.

The decision comes amid a petition gathered by parents who want the Little League's regional office to force a new election to determine National's board of directors.

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Nick Caring, assistant director of regional operations in Williamsport, said Little League's Charter Committee reviewed allegations that National's board of directors violated rules and regulations.

Little League's eastern regional director in Bristol, Conn., had written to past and current National board members warning that the allegations could cost the league its charter and the ability to participate in post-season tournaments that lead to the Little League World Series.

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Caring said the Charter Committee decided not to revoke or suspend the charter. He said the committee will report to the Bristol office within the next few days.

But Caring said the committee made clear its concern over bitter infighting among parents and managers.

"I think there's some things that still have to be investigated and monitored. There's some internal issues," he said.

Caring said he is not sure what steps Little League headquarters would take. Little League officials generally leave it to individual leagues to resolve their own problems, he said.

National board member Angie Sutherland said she was happy to hear the league's charter was no longer in jeopardy.

"It's wonderful," she said. "Things are rolling along."

Sutherland said the league has been operating normally for the 250 players.

The draft for the tee-ball division was held Wednesday night and the minor league division will hold its draft next week. The major league teams have begun practicing and the season begins April 17.

Ricky A. Hockensmith, whose sons play in National Little League, organized a petition drive that collected 216 signatures from parents and others who live within National's boundaries.

The petition, which Hockensmith faxed to the regional office on Thursday, asks that the current National board be dissolved and new elections held by April 10.

Hockensmith said a new election is needed because almost half of the board members were appointed when several on the previous board resigned in January.

Hockensmith said anyone, including board President Kelly Stebbins, could run for election.

"Nobody voted for her," he said. "There's no credibility there."

The petition drew support from several members of the community.

Funkstown Mayor Robert L. Kline, whose grandson plays in the league, said he is upset by the way the league is run.

Kline said everything was done by the book when he started the minor league division for National in 1969.

"The things happening down there today are not kosher," he said. "They're not going by the rules."

Kline said he is troubled by reports that managers in the league worked out potential all-star players during the winter, a violation of Little League rules. League officials repeatedly denied that organized practices took place.

Sutherland said Hockensmith has made trouble because he is upset at getting kicked out of the league at the end of last season after of an off-field dispute with another manager.

Sutherland said seven new people were appointed to the 15-member board in January to fill vacancies created by resignations. There is no need to hold a new election, according to the league's constitution.

Board members have put in many hours preparing for the season, Sutherland said. Forcing them to stand for election now would be unfair, she said.

"What's the use of volunteering if that's going to be the attitude," she said.

In an e-mail message to The Herald-Mail, Eastern Regional Director Donald R. Soucy said he will ask the Charter Committee in Williamsport to review the petition.

"We are somewhat slow to act in hopes that the volunteers will correct their problems at the local level in the best interest of the most important ingredient of Little League Baseball, the children," he wrote.

Soucy wrote that the regional office and Little League headquarters have a few options, but he declined to say what they are.

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