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Parents’ Squabble Over Little League Goes To Court

March 24, 1990

SELDEN, N.Y. (AP) _ There is no joy in Selden - the adults have screwed up.

A year-long rhubarb between two boards of directors, each claiming control of the Selden-Centereach Little League, is threatening the start of this year’s season for nearly 300 youngsters.

The kids are getting frustrated. ″I think they should all be shot,″ said veteran first baseman Lucas Koopmann, 14.

″This is the craziest thing I’ve ever seen,″ said Andrew Konyar, assistant regional director of Little League Baseball Inc. in Williamsport, Pa. which sponsors some 6,000 leagues nationwide.

″These people can’t seem to put their heads together and let the kids play ball,″ Konyar said. ″I think they should let the children run it.″

The dispute began last fall when a group of parents charged that the board of directors was violating Little League regulations by refusing to conduct annual elections. After much bickering, each player’s family received ballots in the mail under the supervision of Joseph Tricarico, a Suffolk County regional administrator for Little League.

When Tricarico counted the vote, three long-time board members lost. Walter Smith, who founded the league in 1977, was among those re-elected, but he refused to recognize the new board.

He split from Little League Baseball and started his own Selden-Centereach Baseball League for the towns of Selden and neighboring Centereach. And he refused to surrender the Little League’s bats, balls, gloves, and home plate.

He also sued in state Supreme Court in Suffolk seeking to prohibit the new board from using the name of Selden-Centereach Little League. But on Friday, state Supreme Court Justice Vincent Hand denied Smith’s request.

Smith argued that he does not want the community to believe that he is still associated with the little league association that he founded.

He contends that he founded the Selden-Centereach League, incorporated it and was therefore not bound by Little League rules governing the operations of the board, according to Gerald Kent Speal, Smith’s attorney.

″Little League can just dictate things such as size of playing field, weight of ball, and circumference of the bat,″ Speal maintained.

The national Little League backs the new board, but has taken the position that the dispute is a local matter to be resolved by the parents.

The parents aren’t talking - they’re waiting for the judge’s decision. The Little League’s bank account, which holds $3,500, has been frozen, and the Selden postmaster has barred either side from collecting the mail from the Little League’s mail box.

The two leagues are preparing for the season nonetheless. Smith, a card shop owner in Riverhead whose 10-year-old son played for the league, says 78 children have signed up for his new league. About 200 children, ages 6 to 15, have signed up to play in the old league; opening day is set for May 5.

George Schnabel, the president of the new board, is scurrying around trying to get equipment and uniforms either from other Little Leagues on Long Island or through donations from local merchants.

Schnabel, a 45-year-old postal worker whose two sons play in the league, used to play baseball as a kid from sunrise to dusk in sandlots in a community not far from Selden.

″We didn’t have a care in the world in those days,″ Schnabel said. ″Why can’t it be like that now?″

Nicholas Harmon, 12, also yearns for a time he is too young to remember.

″They should get all this ridiculous stuff out of he way and let us play ball,″ he said. ″This is just been the adults, not the kids.″

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