After losing on Saturday, Susquehanna League champion East Prospect earned a pair of wins over Central League champion Stoverstown on Sunday to win the best-of-3 York County Baseball Championship Series.
That gave the Pistons their third-straight county crown, right?
Not so fast.
East Prospect’s victory is now officially being challenged by the Central League after the Pistons were alleged to have used an ineligible player.
The player in question is Austin Gallagher, a former third-round draft pick of the Los Angeles Dodgers back in 2007.
Gallagher certainly made a difference for East Prospect in turning around the series. After missing Saturday’s opener, Gallagher clubbed a combined two home runs and collected five RBIs in the two Prospect victories on Sunday.
Here'a analysis of where the dispute now stands, based on conversations with league officials and emails that have been exchanged between the leagues.
The eligibility question: So why is Gallagher’s eligibility an issue?
While the former Lancaster Barnstormer player was on East Prospect’s official roster during the Susquehanna League regular season, the 30 year old did not participate in a single game.
Gallagher was playing professionally in Germany. According to Gallagher, his team, the Mainz Athletics, were eliminated in the Bundesliga semifinals last week. He did not get back into the country until Saturday evening, which is why he was not available to play in Game 1.
The SL arguments: According to SL officials, the conclusion of the Bundesliga season for Gallagher's team made him eligible to play for East Prospect in the playoffs as a nonprofessional.
The Pistons and the SL officials as a whole are saying that since Gallagher was on the roster during the season, that he was eligible to play in the county title series. Since the SL folks say he was eligible, they believe East Prospect is indeed the county champion.
The SL officials are also noting that, regardless of what may have occurred in years past, there are no by-laws between the leagues regarding participation in the county series. In the SL view, a player who appears on a team’s roster from the start of the season is eligible.
The CL arugments: The Tigers and the CL officials submitted two counter arguments.
The first argument regards Gallagher’s status. Since Gallagher was a pro player this season, the CL officials believe he should not have been on East Prospect’s roster in the first place.The CL has a standing rule that professionals cannot occupy a spot on a team’s roster. If the SL has a similar rule, then Gallagher’s status would be invalidated.
Argument No. 2 from the CL officials says there was a "gentlemen’s agreement" that was forged previously between the two leagues. Coincidentally, that agreement also stems from East Prospect’s attempted use of Gallagher in the title series two years ago. The CL officials say that after Gallagher was ruled ineligible to participate back then, that the respective league presidents agreed that only players eligible to participate in each league’s respective playoffs are eligible to play in the county series.
Since Gallagher did not play in a league-mandated minimum of five contests during the regular season, he is not eligible to play for the Pistons in this year’s SL playoffs. The CL officials argue that since he’s not eligible to play in those playoffs, he should not have been allowed to play in this year’s county series.
Next steps: So what’s next?
CL president Mark Skehan has given his counterpart, SL president Jeff Barkdoll, until noon Sunday to reach an agreement with him on how this situation should be handled.
The options that Skehan laid out for resolution are two-fold.
No. 1, the Pistons must vacate this year’s title for using an ineligible player. That action would mean that there would be no official county champion this year.
No. 2, if that option is not accepted, the CL, which operates the Tom Kerrigan Memorial Tournament over the Labor Day weekend, would not allow East Prospect as a team, or any of the players on the Pistons' roster, to participate in this year’s draw, or in future Kerrigan tournaments. East Prospect would be effectively banned from the tournament, which annually caps the local baseball season.
Skehan confirmed that there are ongoing discussions between the two leagues, but a final resolution has not been agreed upon at this time.
Reach Ryan Vandersloot at firstname.lastname@example.org.