Schenectady baseball officials said a Little League 11-12-year-old all-star game game they were slated to host this week was moved to a neutral field in Scotia because Saratoga counterparts told a governing body they were afraid to come to Schenectady.
And a day later, the Schenectady officials said, they still don’t have an official reason justifying the move — and governing officials aren’t offering one.
Officials from District 11/12 Little League either refused to comment or did not return messages on why the Tuesday all-star game was moved.
“We’re not going there on that,” said administrator Charlie Fitzpatrick, whose District 12 includes Schenectady. “I’d just as soon it died. It’s over, and it’s not going anywhere.”
Schenectady feels it was picked on because it is an inner-city team.
“It felt like he was denying our kids a chance to play on their field because we were an inner-city league and someone didn’t want to play there,” Schenectady LL president Ryan Pezzano, whose team won the District 12 title, said Wednesday. “It’s wrong.”
The issue began Monday night at Saratoga, where Schenectady was playing the opener of a best-of-three series against Saratoga National for the right to advance to regional play in the tournament that concludes with the Little League World Series.
Late in that game, Todd Lee, the father of one of the Schenectady players, was asked to leave the premises after the umpires determined he was a distraction.
“There is a rule that you can’t make noise once the pitcher is getting set to throw,” Pezzano said. “Saratoga talked to the umpire. I guess they felt our kids were not stopping in time. That started it.
“The umpires came over and told Mr. Lee he had to go. He went over to the other side of the fence, and I went over to Todd and asked him to tone it down a little. The game was almost over.”
“I admit I am loud, I was asked to leave and that’s what I did. Some people were going ‘Oooh’, like that,” Lee said.
“I did say, ‘If you think I’m loud, just wait until Tuesday. I’m loud and proud.”
Lee, who is Hispanic, said no racial slurs were directed at him as he left.
Pezzano got a call from Fitzpatrick as he was driving home from the game.
“He said, ‘Ryan, we’ve got a problem,’ ” Pezzano said. “He said his source had told him, this is a quote, ‘The Schenectady people were chanting, ‘We will be loaded for you when you come to Schenectady.’ So [Tuesday’s] game is going to be played in Scotia.”
“He told me that they were afraid to come to our field.”
Fitzpatrick confirmed that source was District 11 administrator Dan DeCelle, who was in charge of Monday’s game, but declined to say if there were previous incidents that factored into the decision to move the game out of Schenectady.
DeCelle did not respond to an email request for comment.
“I had to go by what he said; he was there,” said Fitzpatrick. “We decided it was safer for everyone.”
Pezzano was not pleased, feeling the punishment did not fit the situation.
“Every team, every league, there’s always a parent that’s a little boisterous,” he said.
Nicole Peters, who serves as Schenectady LL’s player agent, was in the vicinity as Lee went to the parking lot.
“I was sitting at table on Saratoga side and he was walking out to parking lot,” said Peters. “The umpire wanted to start the game and asked him to hustle.
“One woman was getting her kids out of the way. I was like ‘What do you think he’s going to do?’ He was going to his car.”
Lee’s wife, Brenda, did say she heard some taunts directed at the Schenectady players during the game.
“They were saying things to our starting pitcher, who is black,” she said. “But it wasn’t everybody. I was talking to people at the concession stand, having a nice conversation, with some of the Saratoga parents, so it wasn’t everybody.”
Pezzano said he was left with no recourse.
“No evidence was presented to me. There was no video. I think it was someone said something, maybe someone else said something,” he said. “I reached out to as many parents as I could, to see if anyone could corroborate what I was told about what was supposedly being chanted. No one could.
“In my mind, this was decided and we were not given due process. I think he talked to Dan DeCelle and made up his mind. That’s my opinion.
“I think what may have happened was that someone got in Dan DeCelle’s ear and told them they didn’t want to come down to Schenectady.”
Pezzano said that a number of all-star games had been played at Schenectady, and didn’t see any reason not to use Northside again.
Fitzpatrick had no response to that.
“They wanted to protest, but we have the authority, through Little League, to make decisions about what fields we use,” he said. “It’s not protestable. It’s the decision of the DA’s.”
That answer rang hollow with Schenectady.
“If they were that concerned about safety, I could have had a Schenectady detective at the field, if that’s what it would have taken to the play the game.” Pezzano said.
“It affected our kids, you could see it [Tuesday],” Brenda Lee said. “They thought they were going to play on their field and then we had to explain why they couldn’t because some parents felt it wasn’t safe.”
Saratoga won 14-8 Tuesday to take the best-of-three series.
“We have Asian, black, Hispanic, Caucasian kids on our team, so I don’t want to play that card,” Brenda Lee said. “We were most hurt that our administrator didn’t back us up. The kids were excited about playing a home game.”
Peters said the players are confused.
“For these kids, it was heartbreaking,” she said. “It was nonsensical. Nothing should have led to this.”