The Sylmar Palomino all-star baseball team struck out in a San Jose courtroom Thursday and boarded a bus for the six-hour journey home without playing an inning.
The team was deprived of competing in the western zone tournament after Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Peter G. Stone rejected its bid for an injunction that would have suspended attempts by tournament organizers to disqualify the team.
Sylmar Manager Larry Kapuscinski sought the injunction after North Division director Abel Hernandez disqualified Sylmar, claiming its roster included players from too large an area.
"I declined to interfere with the decision of the (Palomino) league," Stone said. "It's a real tragedy for the team and its supporters. (Organizers) should go through these problems and establish clear rules at the beginning of the season, not . . . right before the World Series."
The winner of the six-team tournament advances to the Palomino World Series in Greensboro, N.C.
According to Stone, it was within the court's jurisdiction to grant the injunction but, in general, courts are reluctant to interfere in disputes involving private, nonprofit organizations.
"I think the judge took an out," said Ted Mathewson, the San Jose attorney Kapuscinski had retained to handle the case. "If we had the time, the resources and the inclination we could appeal; there is precedent. The players had a contractual agreement with the league when they paid their money to participate.
"We contended that the roster of the team had been approved by the Coastal Division director pursuant to the rules. The rules clearly state that the division director is the one who decides the legality of the roster and he did that. That ends it.
"There's no provision that gives authority to the division director of another division."
Kapuscinski and his players were "devastated."
"What we are upset about is that they didn't beat us on the field," Kapuscinski said. "They believe we have a stacked team and we're not a stacked team. We're not bad, but we're not major league material."
Outfielder Tim Weir said he and his teammates have been riding an emotional roller coaster since their arrival in San Jose on Tuesday.
"Everyone was pumped up (Wednesday) when we thought the court would give us a chance to play, but now we're all disappointed again," said Weir, a recent Crespi High graduate who will attend San Diego State in the fall on a baseball scholarship.
This is not the first time the Sylmar team has been embroiled in controversy. In 1988, two players were disqualified from the zone tournament because their homes were outside the boundaries. Two others were ruled ineligible when their registration forms were deemed to be incorrectly filled out and Kapuscinski's team was forced to leave its hotel because of complaints about noise and unruly behavior.
The current controversy is likely to continue if Kapuscinski follows through on his plan to sue the national Palomino organization for travel expenses incurred by the players, coaches and their families.
"I think they have a claim for breach of contract and fraud," Mathewson said.
La Puente, which finished second to Sylmar in last weekend's regional tournament, will take Sylmar's place in the six-team tournament.