Little League International backed its umpires Wednesday in not taking action against the Barrington, R.I., team after Goffstown manager Pat Dutton accused a Barrington player of stealing signals in Saturday’s New England championship game.
“Little League International has full confidence that the umpires and tournament officials handled this situation appropriately. It is under the judgement of the umpire to decide if unsportsmanlike behavior, including stealing or relaying signs, has taken place. If so, the penalty is ejection and a one-game suspension for those involved,” the statement from the Little League International Tournament Committee said.
Stealing signals is a violation of Little League rules.
The accusations stemmed from an incident in the top of the third inning where Dutton believed a Barrington base runner was stealing signs from his catcher and relaying them to the batter using hand signals. Dutton alerted the home plate umpire of the activity earlier in the inning, and when the umpire saw it, he immediately called time out.
After a moment conferring with officials behind the home plate fence, the umpire summoned Barrington manager Chris Pomrades from the dugout.
“I was completely dumbfounded,” Pomrades told the Providence Journal. “I said to myself, ‘What are you talking about?’ He said, ‘The other coach said the guy on second base is stealing signs.’ I was completely baffled.”
Pomrades spoke with his player before returning to the dugout, and the game continued without penalty.
Dutton had accused Barrington of sign stealing in a game played Thursday, Aug. 8, which ESPN commentators Karl Ravech and Dave Belisle referenced in the game’s telecast.
“Little League’s statement is total vindication for Barrington Little League,” Barrington Little League President Fletcher Thomson told the Union Leader Wednesday. “We look forward to playing in Williamsport and watching our kids perform.”
The story has been making waves nationally in recent days, with ESPN, Yahoo Sports, the Washington Post and Sports Illustrated among the outlets to pick it up. Thomson called the Union Leader’s original article “unfortunate” and said “its premise (was) false” in a statement to Boston.com on Tuesday.
“In all aspects of our organization, we strive to foster the ideals of good sportsmanship, honesty, loyalty and respect for coaches, officials and teammates,” he said in the statement. “... We hold our coaches, players and teams to the highest standards, and do not coach or condone unsportsmanlike behavior of any kind.”
Pomrades said Wednesday that the accusations and response to them will hopefully motivate Barrington.
“This is a rallying cry for us,” he told WPRI.com. “Just like when the Patriots used it as a rallying cry for them to win two or three more Super Bowls. We don’t talk about winning and losing with our kids. We just want our kids to compete and grind and represent the name on the front of their jersey, their families and their teammates. That’s what we’re about.
“Whether we win or lose it’s neither here nor there. We just want to teach the game the right way; teach integrity. We try to teach life lessons and this is a wonderful life lesson for what can happen to you in life if you’re falsely accused.”
Reached Wednesday, Dutton said he had no further comment.