- Last Updated: 9:39 AM, August 19, 2012
- Posted: 12:58 AM, August 19, 2012
Say it ain’t so, Kingsbridge!
A Bronx Little League team cheated to win its district championship, Manhattan coaches claim — marking the second time that the league has been accused of foul play in recent years.
Kingsbridge Little League President Chris Navarro is under investigation for putting in ringers, players from traveling leagues who weren’t part of the regular season.
Critics say the strikes against the team of 11- and 12-year-olds especially shame the district — which was rocked by scandal a decade ago when it was proved that star pitcher Danny Almonte had lied about his age.
“[Navarro] has a win-at-all-costs attitude,” said Bill Martino, of the Downtown Little League.
“Little League is about bonding with kids and teaching them life lessons. He taught these children to lie, cheat and for everyone to have a hush-hush mentality about it.”
Navarro denies the allegations.
Manhattan coaches became suspicious this summer when they saw new players in Kingsbridge’s tournament team.
According to official rules, tournament players must have been in at least 60 percent of regular-season games.
Mike Conlon, a manager for the Peter Stuyvesant League, said that his team lost two games to Kingsbridge and that the Bronx league fielded a different lineup each time.
“They cheated, and they beat the system,” Conlon said. “Every team they beat this summer didn’t get a fair chance to win.”
After Kingsbridge beat Downtown, 6-2, Martino filed a complaint with Little League headquarters in Williamsport, Pa. It included the names of seven players who were in the district tournament but not registered for the regular season, and rosters from Kingsbridge’s Web site.
The lineup for the Hurricanes, one of the Bronx league’s five teams, was missing.
Martino said that when he asked Kingsbridge about the home-stretch switcheroo, a coach admitted that the league used “outside” athletes.
But Little League headquarters wasn’t convinced. The club cleared Navarro a week later, and Kingsbridge went on to win the District 23 championship.
It was only after protests from city leagues and a story in the Riverdale Press that Little League headquarters was pressured to reinvestigate.
“The case was reopened because there was new evidence that came forward,” said Little League spokesman Steve Barr.
Barr said the league will rule on the case after the Little League World Series ends next weekend.
Navarro, who’s volunteered with Little League for 20 years, denied using ringers and said a second investigation would prove it.He called the allegations upsetting and “not fair” to the children on his teams.
“The bottom line is that [Downtown] is doing more damage than good,” Navarro told The Post. “They could put a stigma on our kids and our league. Don’t hurt people that shouldn’t be hurt.”