Harlem Little Leaguers Investigated
Aug. 14, 2002
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SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. (AP) _ Little League officials are investigating whether the Harlem, N.Y., team that advanced to this year's World Series has players who violated residency rules.
Newsday reported Wednesday that as many as three players, including star pitcher Alibay Barkley, live outside the boundaries of the Harlem Little League district, according to neighbors.
Last summer's Little League World Series in South Williamsport, Pa., was dogged by scandal when Bronx, N.Y., pitcher Danny Almonte was discovered to be too old to play. Almonte's team was forced to forfeit its third-place finish after officials determined he was 14 instead of 12.
Last week, Little League received two anonymous messages accusing the Harlem team of using players who were too old and who lived out of the league's boundaries. Those allegations were investigated and disproved, Little League officials said.
Lance Van Auken, the spokesman for Little League and a member of the committee that investigates eligibility questions, said the new allegations raised by Newsday involve different players and that Little League was investigating. If the team did use ineligible players, it may have to forfeit its last game.
Harlem advanced to the World Series by defeating Bethlehem, Pa., 5-4 Tuesday. Barkley hit a two-run homer.
``We have gone to the league and asked them for documentation to show that the players named are eligible,'' Van Auken said. ``It wouldn't do us any good to speculate beyond that, because we don't know what they'll come back to us with.''
The eligibility question isn't as cut and dried. According to Van Auken, if a player once lived within the Harlem league's boundaries, then moved outside the area, he could continue to play for Harlem teams so long as he never switched to another Little League.
Van Auken also told Newsday the boys could be within technical compliance if a parent or legal guardian lives in the Harlem district.
Newsday identified the three players with residency questions as Barkley, shortstop and pitcher Jeremy ``Jeter'' Lopez, and third baseman-pitcher Andrew Diaz.
In the Hunts Point section of the Bronx, one teenager said Barkley was definitely a local resident.
``He lives here,'' said Omar Camacho, 13, of the Bronx. ``I've known him for a while. He told me he lives with his mother and two sisters.''
Camacho said Barkley was a regular at ballgames on fields in the Bronx.
During last year's scandal, Little League officials complained that it is not possible to investigate every one of the hundreds of thousands of children who play the sport around the world.
Newsday said that since tournament play began July 1, between 30 and 40 players have been found to live outside their boundaries. The players and their teams face various sanctions, ranging from making a player ineligible to suspension of a team's league charter, Van Auken told the newspaper.
Harlem coach Morris McWilliams, who previously brushed aside allegations involving his team, would not discuss the residency of the three players with Newsday.
Harlem Little League founder Dwight Raiford told the newspaper he was unaware of any claim that Barkley and Lopez live in the Bronx.
``They've gone through Little League, gone through us, they're all legal,'' he was quoted as saying.
As for Diaz, Raiford said, ``The documentation we have is that he's within our boundaries.''