The saga of a group of Little League ballplayers banned from postseason play for participating in a series of charity games will move from the ball field to the courtroom today when lawyers ask a judge to halt further competition in the District 16 all-star tournament.
Phillip R. Marrone, a Burbank attorney representing the parents of players in the Verdugo and Vaquero leagues, said he will ask Superior Court Judge S. James Otero for a temporary restraining order this afternoon to stop the final district game scheduled for tonight.
Marrone said parents are seeking to have the tournament games replayed to include the banned players.
"We're going to ask for a mandatory injunction and ask the court to order Little League to let these kids play," he said.
Twenty all-star players from the two leagues were banned from the district tournament after Little League officials notified them that their participation in a benefit for the nonprofit Tim Herman Foundation earlier this month violated a league rule that forbids more than six players from the same team playing on a nonleague team.
The foundation is named for a 9-year-old La Crescenta baseball enthusiast who died of a heart condition last year.
Since the next level of tournament play begins Saturday, Marrone said parents would accept a series of single-elimination games to determine the district champion or an alternative scenario where the winner of a Verdugo-Vaquero matchup would play the remaining district team for the championship.
At Little League headquarters in Williamsport, Pa., spokesman Dennis Sullivan said that as of Tuesday afternoon he was unaware of legal action being taken against the organization, but he admitted that such an order could disrupt a six-week playoff schedule in which 7,000 teams compete in 15,000 games to reach the Little League World Series.
"Any time you put a detour in a well-defined path like the World Series tournament there's going to be delays and difficulties because it's a lot of games played in a very short amount of time," he said.
Mark Puccinelli, Vaquero's coach, said he would like to see Little League reinstate the players and let the matter drop.
"My hope is that they've had enough embarrassment," he said.
Puccinelli described the ballplayers as "frustrated," but he expressed hope that the situation would be ultimately resolved on a baseball diamond.
"The players should decide it on the field."