Three players from the Bronco-Hermon Senior League baseball team have been ruled ineligible for continued postseason play this summer for failing to meet mandatory play rules during the regular season.
That ruling was handed down in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, late Wednesday afternoon after Little League’s rules committee considered a protest filed earlier this week.
The Bronco-Hermon team, which features players ages 13-16 from the Hampden-Hermon area, was not penalized further and will continue to play in the ongoing Maine District 3 tournament, said district administrator Mike Brooker.
Bronco-Hermon is 2-0 so far in this year’s six-team, double-elimination event with victories over Lincoln and Old Town. The defending District 3 champions are next scheduled to face 1-0 Brewer in a winner’s bracket game at 7:30 p.m. Thursday at Mansfield Stadium in Bangor.
That game will follow an elimination contest at 5 p.m. between 2-1 Holbrook and 1-1 Old Town, with the tournament expected to conclude this weekend.
Two other teams, Lincoln and Houlton, already have been eliminated from the tourney.
“Bronco-Hermon is allowed to continue in the tournament but three players have been deemed ineligible for further participation,” Brooker said.
Thursday’s schedule involves games originally scheduled for Wednesday but were postponed pending the resolution of the protest.
“There are multiple cases they have to hear because there are protests at this time of year from all over the country,” Brooker said, “so in the interim I was advised to postpone those games.”
Under Senior League rules, a player must participate in at least 60 percent of his team’s games in order to qualify for tournament play, and each team must schedule and attempt to play at least 12 regular-season contests.
There are some exceptions available, such as for players who miss a Senior League game because of a scheduling conflict with a high school game or for a player who has been injured, provided official forms reflecting those issues are filled out and submitted in a timely fashion.
“You have to report this ahead of [tournament] time,” Brooker said. “You just can’t say someone sat on the bench and was injured. That doesn’t work.”
Brooker said the District 3 Senior League season for some leagues starts on Sundays during May with other leagues beginning play in June.
Brooker said Bronco-Hermon was not represented at this year’s district scheduling meeting in April and did not decide to field a team until June 11, leaving the team less than a month to build a roster and play its schedule before the start of the District 3 tournament on July 8.
Bronco-Hermon did exceed the minimum number of contests, playing a reported 14 regular-season games.
The District 3 tournament began last Saturday, and the protest was received by Brooker on Monday night, though he did not disclose the team that submitted the protest alleging that some Bronco-Hermon players did not participate in enough games to be eligible for postseason play.
Brooker then gathered related information from Senior League managers in the district and forwarded it to Little League’s U.S. East regional office in Bristol, Connecticut.
Brooker said he received follow-up questions from regional headquarters, and he added that Bronco Little League president Pete Huston also was in contact with Little League officials in Connecticut.
The regional office subsequently forwarded the case to the rules committee at Little League headquarters in Williamsport.
Huston declined to comment on the matter when reached by telephone early Wednesday evening.
At least one District 3 team manager, Karl Ward of Holbrook, expressed disappointment with Little League’s ruling.
“I wasn’t one of the teams that played Hampden so I can just imagine if I’m the manager of a team that either suffered a loss or had been eliminated from the tournament because of a loss to a team that was using illegal players and those games weren’t required to be forfeited,” Ward, who is a state legislator from Dedham, said.
“I just don’t think that’s what the Little League ideal is supposed to be. I thought it would be handled differently. I’m very surprised and I’m disappointed,” he added.
Ward said his team will meet at 3 p.m. Thursday to determine whether Holbrook will continue to play in the district tournament.
“I’m going to leave it up to the parents and the kids on our team to decide what they want to do at this point,” he said.
Ironically, this marks the first year since 2001 that the Maine District 3 champion won’t earn an automatic berth to the Senior League World Series as the host team.
Instead, the District 3 winner — also the state champion — will qualify for the 10-team U.S. East tournament that runs July 20-26 at Thorofare, New Jersey. The Maine representative is not scheduled to play its regional opener until 2 p.m. Friday, July 21.
The SLWS was held at Mansfield Stadium for the last 15 years before being moved by Little League officials last August to Easley, South Carolina, beginning in 2017.
This year’s Senior League World Series is scheduled for July 29 through Aug. 5.
Bronco-Hermon advanced to the Senior League World Series semifinals last year.