EATON — In a change of direction from recent reports, on Thursday, March 9, resident Brian Pool was notified by Eaton Little League a controversial decision excluding his son from playing in Little League because he is wheelchair-bound and in need of assistance, had been reversed.
Coach Pitch Vice President Kyle Cross told Brian Pool via email Luke Pool could play either minor or major league, however, the Eaton Little League Board recommended Luke play minor league, as it is the division in which most of his age group is enrolled.
Until this ruling, ELL could not comment on the situation. They were advised to wait until the issue had “passed through all the proper channels.”
In the email sent to Brian Pool, Cross told the Pool family it was Little League District guidance to deny Luke Pool’s entrance into Eaton Little League. The email stated the decision was “based on safety and liability issues, including personal liability to our Board members.”
Cross reports Eaton Little League was given inaccurate information regarding what Little League International allows in terms of eligibility and use of wheelchairs.
Eaton Little League reached out to all levels of Little League for guidance, and on Wednesday, March 8, they received correspondence from Daniel P. Kirby, Vice President of Risk Management for Little League International.
In his email, Kirby informed Eaton’s Little League Board it was appropriate to give the Pool family the choice of enrolling Luke in a Challenger program. It was also appropriate to allow him to play in the minor league with assistance. However, assistance is not permitted in the major division, due to the competitive nature of the league.
However, Kirby then wrote, “The fact that Mr. Pool’s son is in a wheelchair by itself has absolutely no bearing at all on his eligibility to participate in a major division program and he must not be excluded on that basis. If every player who signs up as noted above is placed on a team, then so must Mr. Pool’s son.
“Mr. Pool and his son must understand that his participation in the competitive major division will be as an individual player, the same as all his teammates, by themselves without any additional player or adult assistance which is available in a Challenger or minor division program.”
Based on that email, Eaton Little League voted to allow Luke Pool to play in either the minor or major division, based on the Pool family’s decision.
Cross explained to Pool, “Eaton Little League would again like to encourage you to request Luke play in the minor’s division. Not only can we provide accommodations for him that should increase his participation ability and safety, but the majority of his grade level classmates are also in the minors.”
At press time, Cross added, “Our intention was never for [Luke] to be excluded to play. Unfortunately, that decision that we reached that was ultimately overturned, was based on some completely inaccurate information relayed to us, that we were working off of.”
Brian Pool is grateful Eaton Little League reversed their decision, but is not sure that they will sign Luke Pool up for the league this year. “We are most likely going to let him play with the select team that graciously asked him to join their team and made him a jersey with his name on it. If we went with LL it would be with the minor league,” he said.
“The local board called and expressed that they really wished this had never happened and wished they had never followed the direction from the district without further investigation. We may or may not return to little league, but are happy they have followed up and are doing the right thing for future handicapped children in the area.”
Reach Kelsey Kimbler at 937-683-4061 or on Twitter @KKimbler_RH