The violation was brief and innoculous. The penalty now has an entire school on edge.
As reported in the Douglas Dispatch, the Douglas (Ariz.) High baseball team was handed an official "warning" by the Arizona Interscholastic Association in connection with an underaged violation. According to the AIA report, Douglas used an eighth grader as a pitcher in a single freshman baseball game.
According to Douglas Athletic Director Stephanie Phillips, both the student and school avoided formal punishment, with the student completely exonerated, though the Douglas baseball program in its entirety was issued the aforementioned warning.
That probation was the only punishment forced on the school, though it is significant in itself; no Arizona school can be credited as achieving Overall Excellence while any part of the institution has been issued a warning. Additionally, the warning means that any other violation during the entire unspecificed period of the warning will land the entire school a probationary sentence.
A probationary sentence would be a pretty harsh penalty, though it would pale in comparison to what was handed to the coaches of the program. The Dispatch reported that all coaches involved in the eighth grade incident were removed from the program. The freshman coach himself also later resigned from his teaching position at the school.
There’s little obvious justification for the use of the middle schooler in a high school game, yet his use in a freshman game in some ways is even more bizarre. If he had been used in a varsity game, some might have at least pointed to a meaningful result coming from a blatant act of cheating. This was apparently cheating for the sake of the gains of a squad whose results only count to those on the team.
Furthermore, freshmen and junior varsity squads exist in essence for one reason: The development of athletes. Using an eighth grader on a freshman team only serves to stunt the growth of at least one freshman pitcher and could imperil the confidence of the eighth grader himself, depending on the results he earns.
Regardless of justification, the AIA sent a powerful message to schools across the state in its swift reaction to Douglas’ brief violation. Now only time will tell how the school bounces back.