Butte boys need not apply

So many people are outraged by the latest Alex Rodriguez scandal.

Baseball suspended the New York Yankees third baseman through the 2014 season — 211 games in all — last week because his involvement with the Biogenesis anti-aging clinic in Florida.

Of course, Rodriguez appealed the suspension and is playing, well, sort of, for the Yankees.

In a perfect world, we would never have to see Rodriguez play baseball again. He would be given a lifetime ban, stripped of all the money he earned playing the sport and spend the rest of his life in a Turkish prison before rotting in very hot place after death.

Better yet, he would be forced to play out his entire contract in the Bronx, and the Yankees would have to pay him.

A-Rod apparently has nobody — except a team of lawyers — in his corner. Everybody is mad at the pseudo slugger as if he stole from them personally.

The A-Rod scandal, though, should not be the most enraging scandal in baseball. Not even close.

That distinction should go to the leaders of Montana/Alberta American Legion Baseball who have repeatedly spit in the face of the young baseball players from the Mining City.

The latest shot came last week when the leaders decided Butte players do not deserve individual postseason accolades.

Backing up for a moment, we all know that in the last year the Legion program chose to put a boot on the head of a drowning Butte program when throwing a life preserver would have been much easier on everybody.

The Butte Miners, who did not win one Class AA game last season after seeing their numbers fall through the floor, were not allowed to play in the Class A this season.

Butte had 16 too many students enrolled in high school in grades 10 through 12. That counts all the students, too, not just the boys.

Let me stop you before you go all “the rules are the rules” on me. The rules are not the rules, and that is the problem.

The Gallatin Valley Outlaws in Three Forks have been allowed to play with players from Whitehall, Bozeman and Helena the last few years. According to the rule book, they are supposed to count the high schools attended by transfer players, putting them way over the limit to play Class A.

The Legion officials acknowledged looking the other way for the Outlaws by amending this year’s rules to add a line saying that they do not strictly follow that particular rule. Seriously.

Oh, and last year, Butte was denied the opportunity to play Class A ball when the team was three students under the limit.

Oh, sure, the Legion pretended to let the Butte boys play Class A ball. In response to some negative publicity, the Legion leaders said Butte could play a full Class A schedule. The Miners, though, would not be eligible for the district tournament.

That at least gave the Miners a little something to play for. At least we thought it did.

That plan turned out to be complete farce. While Butte went 12-5 against Southern A competition — giving the Miners the second-best winning percentage — the team’s official Southern A record on the league’s website is 0-0.

It was bad enough to tell the Butte boys the games that they poured their heart and soul into did not matter. Last week, the Legion told them that they did not matter when the All-State team was announced.

No, I am not talking about the usual All-State snubs that we like to rant and rave about at the end of football, basketball, volleyball and softball seasons.

The Butte players were not overlooked or slighted by the coaches voting on the All-State team. It appears they were not even eligible for consideration. At least they were not up for any real consideration because Butte was not even granted a seat at the table.

Coaches vote for such awards, and Miners coach Jeff LeProwse was not asked to cast a ballot, even though he coached a team sanctioned by the American Legion program.

So Tanner Costello and his .391 batting average and .617 slugging percentage were given the Pete Rose treatment. So was Nate LeProwse’s .347 average. And Zach Hart’s .343. And Cody Sletten’s  .340. And Trent Maloney’s 44 strikeouts in 52 innings pitched.

They are all nonexistent, just like all the steroid and HGH cheaters Major League Baseball threw out for 50 games. The only crime the Butte players committed, though, was growing up in a town that no longer has a Legion baseball stadium and a waning pool of players out for the sport.

Still, they worked hard every day to play the game they love and help the Butte club rebound when a lot of their friends were quitting because they had no decent field to play on and no trophy for which to play.

These players should be celebrated. Instead, they are insulted.

Oh, but the All-State honors really do not mean a thing anyway, you say.

Oh, but you are wrong. Such honors really stick out on the resume of a player with the dream of playing college baseball. They help secure scholarships, and they help land tryouts.

In Montana, those awards are probably more important in baseball than other sports because of the lack of exposure our players get. Sometimes college coaches from Oregon and California have to depend on such awards and the word of a coach when handing out scholarship money to a Montana player.

Right there, your honor, is what I would call damages.

Maybe it is time for someone to file a discrimination lawsuit on behalf of a player like Sletten, who very well could miss out on an opportunity at the next level because of what the Legion did to the Butte players this year.

My bigger question is this: Where are the people getting outraged about this injustice?

Where are the noble coaches who will stand up for what is right even when the wrong that is being done does not involve his team?

Remember the words of Marin Luther King Jr.?

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

If this can happen to one team, your team could be next. Silence only fuels this unfairness.

Sure, it is understandable that coaches might have reason to bite their tongue when it comes to speaking out against the leaders of Montana/Alberta baseball.

When former Dillon Cubs Randy Shipman stood up for what he thought was right — with the interests greater than that of his own team — he was kicked out of Legion baseball.

Yes, it is worth repeating that a baseball league using the name of the brave men and women who put their lives on the line in the name of freedom banished a coach for speaking his mind. Right here in America, too.

That speech, buy the way, was simply asking that the league follow its own rules and not let one team bend  them because its coach is one of the three members of the ruling baseball committee. Conflict of interest, anyone?

Whether or not you like Shipman is not the question. Whether you think he was a good coach or a good person is not the question.

The question is simply about right and wrong, and the Legion banning a coach for arguing on the right side of the rulebook is wrong.

Those coaches who remain silent share the blame, at least to some extent, for what has happened to the Miners and Shipman. If they all would speak out, maybe something like this would never happen again.

The statewide media also deserves some blame. A story that should be on the Dan Patrick Show has gone pretty much ignored in Montana.

Coaches, players, fans, veterans, members of the media and people who could not tell the difference between a baseball and a hockey puck should all be screaming at the top of their lungs for justice and fair play.

We need to tell the world that Legion baseball constantly spitting in the face of Butte’s boys is a much bigger deal than a guy taking a needle in the butt so he can hit a few more home runs.

— Sportswriter Bill Foley writes a column that appears on ButteSports.com on Tuesdays. Email him at foley@buttesports.com. Follow him at twitter.com/Foles74. 5 comments



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5 Comments

  • Blake
    August 13, 2013, 8:12 am

    Agree 400 percent. It’s odd, I wonder if these young men, who by the way have to PAY TO PLAY in order for Montana teams to field a squad, were considered for the national awards given every year by American Legion. If they aren’t considered locally then the answer to that question is NO. Below is a link to just some of the awards doled out by American Legion. The awards represent honor, commitment, courage, valor – in other words just some of the traits and qualities represented by the American Legion and its members – yet the Miners could have been left out of the discussion because they aren’t part of that three-ringed circus running the show. What a shame.

    http://www.legion.org/baseball/awards

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  • qtrhors1
    August 13, 2013, 10:26 am

    This is what happens when you bend the rules for one team and not another. It is not right. They should set the rules and regulations and stick to them. Maybe the city of Butte should pony up for a Field and put the same effort into the infrastructure and logistics as towns half there size do.

    REPLY
  • Eric
    August 13, 2013, 11:37 pm

    Bill, spot on. This is simply crazy not a single nod for our boys. There is talent in this town and plenty of it, heck there’s a ton of it. Give them hell Bill cause this injustice needs to be rectified. It reminds me of the article the sports writer in Helena wrote how no good athletes come out of Butte a few years back. We have amazing athletes and they have something others don’t Butte Pride, and that is something. We are from Butte, We give our sweat, blood, & tears. We play with pride & distinction. We are from Butte and we will always play hard cause that’s all we know.

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  • Ted Richards
    August 15, 2013, 9:22 am

    Something has to be done to allow more kids to play in Butte legion program as many of the athletes are so busy in football and basketball summer ball there is no time for baseball.
    I believe the best athletes play all the sports just ask Bob o’billovich or Dusty Dan or Broan Morris or any of the greats fr butte. Our coaches should know this.

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  • Brian McNary
    August 15, 2013, 12:34 pm

    Having grown up in Butte, I still try to keep an eye on what is going on.

    First off, good piece Bill. I played ball in Butte- in the old days, when the mine was still full tilt.

    I guess I am left wondering, why? I don’t get it. Why the snub? How can some ruling body deny due process. You also bring up damages. One lawyer, doing one pro bono case, who could prove damages to a quality player, might be able to stop that nonsense unless of course, the ruling body is judgment proof, i.e broke. Lawyers in theory, kind of agree to work some cases pro bono via their conduct codes.

    Interesting. I’m gonna be up there tomorrow. Almost makes me want to look into this.

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