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Keller: Sometimes doing right feels so wrong

June 29, 2011
  • Mark Keller, Herald-Mail Sports Editor
Mark Keller, Herald-Mail Sports Editor

Sir Isaac Newton’s third law of motion states, in its most simple terms, that every action has an equal and opposite reaction.

Occasionally, the same could be said for the administration of justice, because in some cases it leads to an equal injustice.

Friday night, the Sharpsburg Little League 9-10 All-Star team won its opening game in the District 1 tournament, beating Conococheague, 13-11.

However, before the game had ended, Conococheague officials filed a protest, claiming a player on the Sharpsburg roster did not live within that league’s boundaries.

After an investigation, it was determined Saturday that the player was ineligible because he lived out of district. He was removed from the team and Sharpsburg was forced to forfeit the game it won on the field.

That’s the justice, but it sure seems like an injustice — at least to the player, right?

You can’t help but feel for the kid in this. After all, it was through no fault of his own that he was in this situation.

In an email to a sports reporter, the player’s mother said her family has been a part of Sharpsburg Little League for nine years. Her older son also played and her husband has been a coach there.

She said for nine years, they have provided the same information required to register for the league. They now know that they live less than a quarter of a mile outside the Sharpsburg boundaries.

Then she asked to explain again why her son has to suffer the consequences.

The explanation is simple, though harsh: Because a rule was broken.

I’m quite certain there was no intent to break the rule. The fact that this family has been a part of the same league for nine years tells me they truly thought they belonged there.

Perhaps nine years ago, they did belong at Sharpsburg. Just as schools are redistricted, league boundaries can sometimes be redrawn.

The league is ultimately responsible for determining whether a player is within its boundaries at preseason registration. It’s easy to conceive that officials assumed — year after year — that the player was in Sharpsburg’s district because the family was so well established in the league.

Easy to conceive, but no less unfortunate.

The all-star team suffers the consequences of the oversight because it had to forfeit a game it won on the field.

The good news is the team is still alive, fighting its way through the losers’ bracket and eyeing a rematch with Conococheague.

The ineligible player suffers more, because now he can’t even be on the team.

The good news is the player, by his mother’s account, is handling the situation well and attending Sharpsburg’s games, cheering on his former teammates. In two weeks, the family is moving into a new home — in the Sharpsburg Little League district.

But if you don’t punish this offense — which appears to be an honest mistake by a number of adults — how do you punish the next one?

If you let this one go because he’s only a quarter-mile outside the district, how do you not let it go next year when it’s a half-mile?

When you create a gray area, the gap between black and white tends to gradually widen.

Mark Keller is sports editor of The Herald-Mail. He can be reached at 301-791-7728 or by email at keller@herald-mail.com.

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