It might not be a resolution that either side desired, but the recent controversy between the rival Central and Susquehanna baseball leagues has finally come to a conclusion.
Despite a player eligibility challenge from the Central League, Susquehanna League champion East Prospect maintains it is still the York County baseball champion. CL officials wanted the Pistons to vacate that title because the CL believed the Pistons used an ineligible player.
When East Prospect wouldn't vacate the title, the CL responded by barring EP and its players from competing in the CL-run Tom Kerrigan Memorial Tournament over Labor Day weekend. In response, the SL said none of its teams nor its players would compete in the Kerrigan event.
How it started: It all started during the York County Baseball Championship Series, when the CL disputed the eligibility of Austin Gallagher. The Pistons won that best-of-3 series, 2-1, over CL champion Stoverstown. Gallagher played a pivotal role in the Pistons rallying for the crown with two wins on Sunday, Aug. 11, after losing the series opener the day before.
Gallagher had just completed his season in a German pro league before he played his first game of the season for the Pistons in Game 2 of the county series. Gallagher was, in the opinion of CL officials, a professional player who should have been ineligible to be on an amateur team’s roster.
The CL also believed that, since Gallagher was ineligible for the SL playoffs, he should have also been ineligible for the county title series. Under SL bylaws, a player must compete in five regular-season games to compete in the league playoffs. Before Aug. 11, Gallagher hadn't played a game this season for the Pistons but had been listed on the team's roster for the entire season.
The SL officials responded by saying that the Pistons did nothing wrong, stating that there is no written rule dictating eligibility in the county series. Therefore, the SL said it was standing by EP’s claim to the 2019 county crown.
CL president Mark Skehan originally gave SL president Jeff Barkdoll a deadline of noon Sunday, Aug. 18, to reach an agreement on the dispute. Barkdoll asked for an extension of that deadline until after a Monday, Aug. 19, meeting by the SL board of directors. Skehan permitted the extension.
Despite the extension, no official compromise was reached. The end result of the situation is one in which both sides suffer.
Point, counterpoint: EP will maintain its claim to the disputed title, but the CL, as a result, will not allow the Pistons, nor any of the players on their roster, to participate in the Kerrigan event.
That action by the CL drew a swift counter action from the SL board, which voted to declare that no SL teams or players would be permitted to participate in this year’s Kerrigan event. Normally, the SL regular-season and playoff champions earn Kerrigan berths. If the same team wins both title, the playoff runner-up typically gets a Kerrigan spot.
“(That decision) was decided by the Susquehanna League board of directors,” Barkdoll said of his league’s decision. “We stand united behind EP.”
Casts cloud over future: The result of those actions has cast a large cloud over what appeared to be a blossoming relationship between the rival leagues. This year marked the first time interleague play between the two organizations took place.
The general feeling from players and managers was that interleague play was good for everyone involved and helped promote baseball within the county. This controversy, however, leaves the continuation of interleague play next season very much up in the air.
“We are at an impasse between the two leagues,” Skehan said. “The Central League is moving forward with the plans for the Kerrigan Tournament without the participation of the Susquehanna League. Future plans between the two leagues remain in flux.”
Barkdoll open to working with CL: While the two leagues differ in their respective feelings about the county series this year, Barkdoll wanted to make clear that his league is open to working with Skehan and the CL for future endeavors, such as interleague play.
“It should be noted that the Susquehanna League is both interested and hopeful that interleague play continues,” Barkdoll said.
One logical solution to the matter would be for the sides to come together to address the lack of specific written rules to dictate county series eligibility from this point forward. Barkdoll said his league believes that needs to happen.
“There has been lots of conversation (about that),” Skehan said. “My position is that we will talk about the future after we address the present. The Central League is moving forward. The ball is in the Susquehanna League’s court.”
While the Pistons and the SL playoff champ will not have the honor of representing the league in the Kerrigan event this year, EP manager Mark Toomey accepted the decisions of both leagues.
“We wish (the Central League) well and with great success,” Toomey said. “Sadly the best team and all of the great players of the Susquehanna League will not be attending this year’s tournament.”
— Reach Ryan Vandersloot at firstname.lastname@example.org.