May 20, 2018
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Federal judge won’t force Portland school to let pitcher play varsity baseball

Jake Bleiberg | BDN
Jake Bleiberg | BDN
PrinceHoward Barbecue Yee (center), leaves federal court in Portland on Wednesday with his father Howard Yee (right), and attorney Michael Waxman after a judge rejected a request for an injunction allowing him to play varsity baseball at Deering High School.
By Jake Bleiberg, BDN Staff
Updated:

PORTLAND, Maine — A federal judge has issued an initial ruling against the father of a baseball player with an 85 mile-per-hour fastball, who sued Portland school officials over a decision that keeps his son from playing for the varsity team this season.

On Wednesday morning, U.S. District Judge Nancy Torresen declined to issue a preliminary injunction to allow PrinceHoward Barbecue Yee to try out for varsity baseball at Deering High School, rejecting the argument that the boy was denied his due process rights in being allowed to transfer to the Portland district but not play ball.

Howard Yee of Falmouth, who appeared in court with his two sons wearing matching team USA Ralph Lauren polo shirts, sued earlier this month claiming that he found out that his son would not be eligible to play varsity baseball on the Friday before tryouts, despite the district superintendent accepting the boy for transfer in January.

The Deering principal prohibited Yee, 15, from playing varsity ball because he believes the boy transferred primarily to join the school’s team, which violates the Maine Principal Association rules governing high school athletics, a court complaint states.

Torresen’s decision does not affect whether the case can move forward, but may make it moot as the high school baseball season will likely outpace the workings of the federal justice system.

[Father sues Portland school officials for preventing son from playing varsity baseball]

The Yees’ lawyer, Michael Waxman of Portland, said his clients were disappointed but not surprised and that he is not yet sure how they will proceed with the case. For the time being, Yee will likely remain enrolled at Deering and play junior varsity baseball, he said.

A lawyer for the Portland school district declined to comment following the ruling.

During the hearing, Waxman argued that Portland Superintendent Xavier Botana did not give the Yee family sufficient notice that their son might not be allowed to play varsity baseball before his transfer was accepted. The lawyer said the school had violated his client’s due process rights and compared the young ballplayer, who goes by Barbecue, to Tiger Woods.

Torresen rejected Waxman’s claims outright, calling the argument he was trying to pull together a “crazy quilt.” The judge further noted that the family was provided written notice that a separate determination would be made about Yee’s eligibility to play baseball.

“That is an impressive fastball, I have to say, for someone so young,” Torresen said. “But I just don’t see this as being about a right to an education.”

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