Dylan Hickey, the outstanding pitcher in last month's state high school baseball tournament, has been declared ineligible to play American Legion baseball for Juneau's Post 25 Midnight Suns.
The State American Legion Baseball Department issued the decision on Thursday. The ineligibility stems from Hickey's participation in a Connie Mack league in Washington state where he plays for the Edmunds Shockers Baseball Club.
"When we showed up in Anchorage earlier this month for the district coaches meeting, I was asked if all the players on my roster were present," Midnight Suns head coach Jim Ayers said. "I told them the truth and said Dylan was still in Washington. If I would have kept my mouth shut, Dylan would probably be able to play, but it isn't honest and I can't do that."
Hickey has been participating in the Connie Mack league since early June and is the team's No. 2 starting pitcher with a 2-3 record and a 3.81 ERA in 36 2/3 innings. He also is second on the team in batting with a .400 average.
During Juneau-Douglas High School's regular season, Hickey batted .535 with four homers and 17 RBI's, 17 runs, eight doubles and seven stolen bases in 43 at-bats. On the mound, he was a perfect 3-0 with a 3.50 ERA and 21 strikeouts in 22 innings pitched.
He was named the outstanding pitcher at the state baseball tournament after striking out 14 batters in a 3-2 loss to Wasilla.
Hickey has not played with the Midnight Suns this season, but planned to join the squad this week in Anchorage.
"I was pretty disappointed when I found out," Hickey said in a phone interview with the Empire on Sunday. "They (The Midnight Suns) kept me on the roster all season and I thought they got the OK from the state people."
The 2001 American Legion rules state that ballplayers may participate in other amateur baseball programs, but prior approval from the department's baseball chairman must be obtained in writing. It also says that it is important that dual participation not interfere with a player's responsibility to his American Legion team.
"To me there is no conflict," Ayers said. "The state is trying to trap the kids instead of letting them play better competition and develop. On the other hand, we've played without him all season and we're doing well, but we could still use him."
Ayers was also the head coach of the JDHS baseball team. He gave Hickey permission to play in the Connie Mack league, saying "I had no problem with Dylan playing for the Shockers."
According Ayers, he received a verbal go ahead from State American Legion Baseball Department Chairman Ron LaPorte before Hickey began playing with the Shockers, but nothing in writing.
"It seems unreasonable and not consistent with what LaPorte originally told me," Ayers said about the ruling on Hickey's eligibility.
LaPorte declined to comment to the Empire on the specifics of Hickey's case saying, "We don't expose high school boys to that kind of publicity."
Ayers appealed the state ruling to the national level but the state ruling was upheld. "The national lets the states set their own rules above and beyond to national rules," Ayers said. "They rarely rule against the state."
The Alaska rule states that if a player misses a scheduled American Legion game without prior approval by the state department chairman or the district chairman to participate in another activity, the player will be ruled ineligible to play Legion baseball.
"If you play American Legion baseball, that's a commitment," LaPorte said. "If you play on another team, that jeopardizes your chances to play Legion ball. To me the state rule is no more stringent, it just clarifies the national rule more."
"The state rule is even more vague than the national rule," Ayers said. "Prior to what? Prior to the season or prior to the tournament? And what activity? It's not very specific. The people at the national level said the state should look at the rule again."
Jeff Kasper can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.