The New Hampshire Little League coach who said the World Series-bound Rhode Island team stole signs during the regional tournament last weekend stood by his remarks Wednesday night, questioning why the rules were overlooked.
In an email to Boston.com and The Providence Journal, Goffstown Junior Baseball team manager Pat Dutton said his statements published in The New Hampshire Union Leader Monday after his team’s Aug. 10 loss in the New England Region Championship series to Barrington Little League are not claims or allegations.
“The umpire caught them doing it in the 3rd inning,” Dutton wrote. “The video clearly shows the runner on 2nd base relaying signs to the batter and is one of multiple videos from the games RI played in last week where you can see the signals being relayed by the runner to the batter. It was brought to the home plate [umpire’s] attention in Thursday’s game as well.
“Why does Little League have rules if we don’t need to adhere to them?” Dutton continued. “Why say the Little League pledge before every game if it means nothing? The 13 kids on my team are okay with losing, RI played better than we did as was already mentioned, but trying to explain to them why there were no consequences for the rules being broken on multiple occasions is where the clarification needs to be.”
Dutton’s elaboration comes just as Barrington is slated to take the field for the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, Thursday afternoon against the Southeast Region champion from Virginia.
While Dutton has said he saw his Barrington opponents stealing signs in the first of a two-game series last week, he’s called attention to a specific moment during Goffstown’s 6-4 loss last Saturday.
A video of the tournament shows a runner on second base making a gesture with his hands toward the batter during the top of the third inning. The umpire then calls a time out and speaks with both managers before the game resumes.
Sign stealing and relaying is prohibited under official Little League rules. Umpires, should one determine the rules were broken, are tasked with ejecting and suspending the players and coaches or managers involved.
Barrington Little League swiftly denied the allegations on Tuesday, saying, “The article in the Union Leader is unfortunate and its premise false.”
“We hold our coaches, players and teams to the highest standards, and do not coach or condone unsportsmanlike behavior of any kind,” the organization said in a statement.
Coaches told the Journal sign stealing “never happened.”
“My 13-year-old son called me in tears because of what happened and what was said on Channel 10 with them reading the lines of the story on the news and cheating allegation from Barrington,” Barrington assistant coach Frank Fede told the newspaper.
In his email Wednesday night, Dutton questioned why the league has rules if they aren’t enforced.
He wrote that “the videos are evident enough to make this case” and said he is simply trying to shed light on the issue so it can be addressed.
Everyone deserves “answers as to why breaking the rules was overlooked,” he said.
“People say I should’ve changed the signs. Why? If nobody is stealing them this is a non issue,” Dutton wrote. “It’s unfortunate that this happened at all, but the umpire clearly saw it and brought it to the [team’s] attention. Watch the videos. Watch all the games not just the championship game, and you will see it for yourself that this was not an isolated incident.
“The issue is allowing rules to be broken with no consequences,” he added. “This sets the wrong example for all little leaguers world wide.”
But Dutton also gave credit to Barrington’s performance last weekend, reiterating that the reigning Rhode Island champions played better ball than their Goffstown counterparts that day.
“I never said this cost us the game, I said RI played better than we did and won because they played better,” he wrote. “Congrats to them!
“This happened on Saturday and can be seen on video Thursday and Friday of last week,” Dutton added. “Has anyone actually watched the games to see for themselves? The game is about the kids learning the game, having fun, and hopefully pick up a few life lessons along the way. I have nothing further to add or say on the matter.”
On Wednesday, Little League International said “it has full confidence that the umpires and tournament officials handled this situation appropriately.”
“The Little League International Tournament Committee considers this issue closed and has stressed to the teams in Williamsport the importance of adherence to all rules and regulations governing the Little League Baseball World Series,” the organization said.
Barrington’s World Series appearance kicks off at 3 p.m. ESPN will broadcast the game.