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‘Simply a misunderstanding’: Dizzy Dean Baseball commissioner explains forfeiture over player missing game for church

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Controversy arose during the Dizzy Dean Baseball South State tournament in Starkville over the weekend, spurring a whirlwind of chatter on social media.

On Sunday, a parent of a player on the Starkville Stars 8-year-old team took to Facebook claiming that his son’s group wrongfully had to forfeit a game due to the squad not having the requisite number of players in adherence to the tournament’s rules. The forfeiture ultimately ended the team’s run in the tournament.

Stars coach John Morrison expounded upon the incident, noting that the team entered the weekend series with the bare minimum of 10 players because one of the members was on a family vacation. The team started every game, except one, with its entire active roster. According to Dizzy Dean rules, a team must begin a game with 10 players but can compete with nine in the event of an illness or injury that occurs after the first pitch has been thrown.

Come Sunday morning, one of the players was unable to show up to the Stars’ first game of the day due to a scheduling conflict as the child and his family were attending a church service while the contest was taking place. Stars coaches were prepared to be understaffed and were willing to take an automatic out every time the absent player was supposed to step up to the plate.

“I never thought we would see the day where a baseball team in America, Mississippi nonetheless, would be forced to forfeit a game because one of their teammates chose to attend church FIRST, then come to the baseball game SECOND,” the parent wrote on Facebook. “We were prepared. We knew we would be one man down — a solid player in the field and at bat. We were prepared to take the out every time he came up to the plate. We were at a disadvantage and we were ok with that. But the local representatives and State Director of Dizzy Dean would not see it any other way.”

Dizzy Dean Commissioner Danny Phillips explained to SuperTalk Mississippi News that the team having to forfeit the game came as a result of miscommunication between the umpire, the local tournament director, and Dizzy Dean coordinators.

While one of the Stars’ coaches said that he submitted his lineup with nine players rostered, Phillips noted that the umpire did not count the number of kids playing for both teams until the game had already begun.

“The specific situation out of Starkville was simply a misunderstanding somewhat with the umpire and our director,” Phillips said. “The umpire started the ballgame and the team from Starkville only had nine players. Our rulebook is clear that you must have 10 players to start a game in that age group. He didn’t realize that the team only had nine players, so he went ahead and started the game.”

After noticing a shortage of Stars players, the umpire stopped the game in the bottom of the first inning and notified the person overseeing baseball operations at Starkville’s Cornerstone Park complex that the team was shorthanded. Meanwhile, the opposing club out of Choctaw County was advocating for the game to continue.

Phillips, recognizing an error that took place, acknowledged that the umpire lacked the power to pause the game in that manner, especially since the opposing team was perfectly content with the game being played regardless of the Stars’ circumstances.

“The umpire did not have that authority,” Phillips continued. “If the manager of the opposing team had protested that they only had nine players, then a decision would have had to have been made from that point, but we more than likely would have allowed them to continue the game since the game had already started.”

Once the game was paused, Starkville’s director reached out to John Gravat, Dizzy Dean’s national and state director. However, the entire context surrounding the peculiar situation was reportedly not articulated to Gravat.

“He called our director. He did not tell the Dizzy Dean director that the game had already started. He only asked if they could play if they only had nine players. The Dizzy Dean director told him no,” Phillips added. “That’s when the forfeit was incurred. We didn’t know that the game had already started.”

Officials from Dizzy Dean have since apologized to the Stars’ coaches for how their team was essentially removed from the remainder of the tournament while adding that the squad’s forfeiture had nothing to do with the religious views of the family whose child was absent.

However, Phillips offered a word of advice for team managers to follow to avoid situations like the one on Sunday from occurring in the future.

“I’ve coached my son from tee ball all the way through high school ball. I’ve taken all-star teams somewhere nearly every year of his life,” Phillips said. “Never have I gone to a tournament with less than 12 players. I’ve always had a substitute. If somebody got hurt, I had a substitute to put into the game.”

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