Judge Denies Injunction Request : Boys Strike Out on Little League's Softball Ban

Times Staff Writer

Sunshine Little League officials struck out Tuesday in their attempt to rescind a new National Little League policy that prohibits boys from playing on the league's softball teams.

Superior Court Judge Mack P. Lovett denied an American Civil Liberties Union attorney's request for a temporary restraining order against the ban. He continued the matter until March 14 to give Reeve J. Jacques, attorney for the National Little League, more time to prepare his case.

The ACLU filed suit Feb. 5 on behalf of Jose Torres Jr., 10, and Louis Fuentes Jr., 14, who both played softball last year in the Sunshine Little League in East San Diego.

The boys cannot play softball in the league this year because, in November, officials at the National Little League in Williamsport, Pa., banned boys from playing softball in order to give girls more opportunities to play on softball teams.

The ACLU suit asked for an injunction lifting the National Little League ban and allowing boys throughout California to try out for Little League softball teams.

Outside the courtroom, the boys said they were dissatisfied with the judge's decision because they will not have a chance to participate in Little League softball tryouts, which begin Saturday.

The judge "didn't look too enthusiastic about it," Fuentes said. "The day to pick teams is Saturday, so I guess I won't be able to play."

Jose said he didn't like the idea of a continuance because it discriminates against boys.

"If girls can play baseball and softball, why can't boys play softball and baseball?" he asked.

Jose Torres Sr., manager of the Centre City Blues softball team, which had five male players (including his son) last year, said he had a feeling that Tuesday's hearing would end the way it did.

"This is a small matter that involves kids," he said. "It didn't involve people's finances or things of a material matter." Torres said the issue wasn't a life-or-death matter, but "granting the continuance only hurts the kids."

If a temporary restraining order is issued in March, Torres said, the boys who played on Little League softball teams last year will be eligible to play on teams that need additional players. If the order is issued in late May or early June, Torres said, the boys can still play. The boys, however, would not qualify for tournament games because League rules say that players must play at least half of the regularly scheduled games to qualify for tournaments.

ACLU attorney Gregory Marshall said he will continue fighting for an injunction because the hardship faced by the boys is greater than that faced by the National Little League.

The national league's position "doesn't have a thing to do with the interest of the young people," Marshall said. "I haven't heard any statements from the (National) Little League suggesting that (an injunction) would place any kind of hardship on them."

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