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VALLEY/VENTURA COUNTY SPORTS | AMERICAN LEGION BASEBALL
/ PETER YOON

Ojai Doesn't Pay for Violation

July 22, 1998|PETER YOON

Ojai will be allowed to compete in the Area 6 playoffs despite using four ineligible players in the regular season, Area 6 co-commissioner Julio Yniguez said.

"It's too late to try to go back and undo everything," said Yniguez, explaining why Ojai was not disqualified from the playoffs.

The players--David Chaparro, Matt Leeth and Gilbert Infante of St. Bonaventure High and a player from Santa Barbara High--have been removed from the team.

Chaparro, who was batting .450 in the leadoff spot, played shortstop. Leeth was a starting outfielder.

Because of boundary rules, the St. Bonaventure players should have played for the Ventura American Legion team, and the Santa Barbara player, who lives in Carpinteria, should have played for the Santa Barbara team.

Yniguez said the four players "should have been ineligible from the start."

Ojai Coach Bob Hill said he thought the players were eligible because District 16 Commissioner Marty Garcia, who coaches the Camarillo team, had approved the roster before the season.

"He said we were OK," Hill said. "He signed off on our roster."

Garcia remembered it differently.

"When I signed it, it was blank," Garcia said. "He told me he didn't have a roster but that the team was the same as it was last year. I didn't have any problems from him last year, so I signed it."

Garcia said after learning of the illegal players, he sought disciplinary action against Ojai, a move Hill claims was made because Ojai and Camarillo were involved in a close race for a playoff spot.

"We feel it was because we were in contention with his team," Hill said of Garcia. "We're not a ringer team. We have the smallest enrollment in the whole district."

Garcia decided against appealing Yniguez's decision to allow Ojai to compete in the playoffs.

"What would be the sense?" Garcia asked. "I'm not trying to pick on the Ojai Legion team. I just want to put a program out of District 16 and make sure we follow the rules. I just wish I had seen the roster before I signed it. Next year I'm not going to sign until I see it."

Last year, Garcia's Camarillo team lost outfielder Charles Merricks for the area playoffs because of a similar violation.

Ojai has not forgotten the four players who helped the team reach the playoffs.

"We've dedicated the rest of our season to those guys," Hill said.

*

First-round Area 6 playoff games Thursday at Birmingham High: Ojai (21-3) vs. Brentwood (12-5), 9 a.m.; Van Nuys Notre Dame (27-5) vs. Santa Susana (20-5-1), noon; Westside (20-4) vs. Pomona (21-8-1), 3 p.m.

The remainder of the double-elimination tournament will be played at UCLA.

As usual, some first-round matchups don't make sense.

Ojai and Brentwood placed second in their districts, yet play each other. The four remaining teams all won district titles, yet two are guaranteed opening-round losses.

"The way they set it up is kind of weird," Santa Susana Coach Hal Byer said. "The way these guys do things is really strange, but I don't ask questions. I just make sure my team is ready to play."

*

The Van Nuys Notre Dame-Santa Susana game could induce deja vu.

Royal High, one of Santa Susana's feeder schools, beat Notre Dame in the Southern Section playoffs two years ago, when pitchers Mike Byer of Royal and Kevin Jerkens faced each other.

The same pitchers are expected to start Thursday.

*

Santa Susana second baseman John Whipp, who is batting .416, could have trouble making the start of his team's noon playoff opener Thursday.

Whipp has a summer school final that morning at Westmont College in Santa Barbara that is expected to last no later than 11 a.m., meaning he might have only an hour to make the 80-mile trip.

*

Staff writer Eric Sondheimer contributed to this column.

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