El Camino Real High officials decided Thursday that the school’s baseball team will participate in the City 4-A playoffs today after five league victories were reinstated by a Los Angeles Unified School District associate superintendent.
On Wednesday afternoon, Associate Supt. Sid Thompson gave back the games El Camino had been forced to forfeit earlier this year because of the use of an ineligible player. The City Interscholastic Athletic Committee had voted Tuesday to uphold the forfeits, denying an appeal by El Camino parents and players.
But Thompson overturned the IAC ruling, giving El Camino the chance to enter the playoffs instead of Canoga Park. On Wednesday night, El Camino officials voted not to accept the playoff invitation, saying it was too late to prepare for the game at Granada Hills.
El Camino Principal Lawrence Foster met with about 20 parents, players and staff members Thursday morning.
“We decided to have the team meet with the coach,” Foster said, “and we asked them to come up with a recommendation to the principal. Their recommendation was to play.”
Mike Maio, El Camino’s baseball coach, said he was told at 9 a.m. Thursday that it was up to him and the team to decide their fate.
“I had a choice of pleasing myself and doing what I think is right,” Maio said, “or pleasing my kids, who obviously want to play. I’m still not sure we made the right decision.”
The decision has angered several coaches, including Granada Hills’ Darryl Stroh and Canoga Park’s Doug MacKenzie.
“I’ve had my pitchers prepare for certain (Canoga Park) batters all week,” Stroh said. He also said the team had practiced as if they would face a right-handed pitcher. They will now face left-hander Drew Ricker, possibly the toughest pitcher in the West Valley League.
“I’m going to protest after the first pitch,” Stroh said. “I know I’m not going to win the protest, but I want to do it just to express my outrage.”
Said MacKenzie: “I think it’s a tragedy. I’m worried about what this decision (by Thompson) is teaching our athletes about obeying the rules.”
El Camino sophomore Sean Davis was found to have played in an outside league during the school season, in violation of state rules. The Conquistadores were forced to forfeit the five games they had won while Davis had played in a senior little league in Inglewood. They dropped from second in league to last.
Last week, a group of El Camino parents filed an appeal with Paul Godfrey, an assistant district superintendent, to reverse the forfeits. Last Thursday, Godfrey granted the parents an opportunity to appeal at a special IAC meeting Tuesday.
The IAC voted 11-8 to uphold the forfeits. But Thompson gave the victories back to El Camino because, he said, state rules indicate teams “may” have to forfeit games. Forfeiture is not automatic, Thompson said.
“We believe the team, the coaches and the administration made every reasonable effort to explain to the players the rules,” Thompson said. “The other youngsters played by the rules.”
Thompson said that he and Supt. Harry Handler decided that Davis would remain ineligible, but the rest of the players would be allowed to play and the forfeits reversed.
Foster, Maio, Don Thomas, the assistant principal at El Camino, and Vernon Manley, the school’s athletic director, had a telephone conference Wednesday night to decide what to do with Thompson’s ruling. All four agreed that the team should not play, Foster said.
“We made the decision (Wednesday) which seemed to be the best,” Foster said. “Today we made the decision which seemed to be best today.”
Foster said it was a no-win situation.
“If you go one way, you make some people unhappy,” he said. “You go the other way you make other people unhappy.”
What had several coaches so upset was not that El Camino had decided to play, but that Thompson had overturned the IAC’s decision.
“The IAC is like our Supreme Court,” San Fernando Coach Steve Marden said. “If one person can overturn their rulings, then what’s the use of having it?”
The IAC is made up of about 40 to 50 high school principals, vice principals and athletic directors.
Marden, along with Maio, MacKenzie, Stroh, and Chatsworth Coach Bob Lofrano held a press conference at Chatsworth Thursday following the Chancellors’ opening-round game with Gardena.
“Nobody is complaining that El Camino is back in the playoffs,” Stroh said, “but when it was done was ridiculous. There is no direction in the system. There are no rules. There are rules, but people break them and get away with it.”
The coaches were also upset that two playoff games, Reseda at Kennedy and Gardena at Chatsworth, were played Thursday. All the other first-round games are scheduled for today.
“It gives the teams who played a day early another day of rest for their pitchers,” Stroh said.
The Effects on the West Valley League Without El Camino Real’s Forfeits
Team W L GB Chatsworth 14 1 - Cleveland 10 5 4 El Camino Real 8 7 6 Reseda 6 9 8 Canoga Park 4 11 10 Taft 3 12 11
With El Camino Real’s Forfeits
Team W L GB Chatsworth 15 0 - Cleveland 11 4 4 Reseda 7 8 8 Canoga Park 6 9 9 Taft 3 12 12 El Camino Real 3 12 12