Barrington (Rhode Island) Little League, the New England Region’s representative in the Little League World Series, is accused of stealing signs to help get to the pinnacle of the sport in Williamsport, Pennsylvania.
Pat Dutton, the manager of the team from Goffstown, New Hampshire, which lost to Barrington in Saturday’s region final, made the accusation after the game in Bristol, Connecticut.
“You can see [runners on second base] leaning in, looking in and they’re doing hand gestures to their kid [at the plate] indicating what kind of pitch it is and where it’s located,” Dutton told the New Hampshire Union Leader. “You can do that in big league ball, but in Little League it’s unsportsmanlike, it’s dishonorable and it’s disgusting.
“They did it the whole tournament and got away with it, and now that’s what’s representing New England in the Little League World Series. It’s just a bad look.”
Barrington Little League issued a statement to Boston.com on Tuesday, calling the allegations “unfortunate” while denying any sort of wrongdoing.
“We hold our coaches, players and teams to the highest standards,” the Barrington statement said, “and do not coach or condone unsportsmanlike behavior of any kind.”
Dutton told the Union Leader that he suspected the Barrington team of stealing signs during Goffstown’s 2-1 win on Thursday and alerted the umpire, just as he did during Saturday’s game.
Dutton said warnings were issued to Barrington’s manager and a player on the next pitch after Saturday’s complaint.
“That’s something these kids don’t learn on their own. That’s something that they’re taught,” Dutton told the newspaper. “They’re coached to do that. Obviously the team condones it, they coach it, and, personally, that’s something that I’m completely against. Little League is supposedly against it, but you wouldn’t know it this week.”
While it is a frowned-upon practice and one of baseball’s unwritten rules at higher levels, it is prohibited at the Little League level, with players and coaches being subject to ejection from the game.
According to Tournament Rule 3 from Little League Baseball, “If in the judgment of the umpire, a player/coach/manager is deemed to be stealing and relaying pitch selection or a location, it is considered unsportsmanlike, and said offender is to be ejected from the game.”
Barrington opens the Little League World Series against the Southeast Region champs from South Riding, Virginia, on Thursday (ESPN, 3 p.m. ET).