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Thursday, Nov. 27, 2014

Little League player raises big questions

Thursday, August 30, 2001

By the end of the day we may know the real age of Dominican Republic Little League star Danny Almonte. Then again, we may not.

For those uninformed, Almonte was the star pitcher for the Bronx Little League team in last week's Little League World Series. Almonte dominated the series and performed at a record level. His on-field accomplishments have become legend but off-field questions have followed him in the past month. Is Almonte - who just moved to the United States 18 months ago - 12 years old or is he an illegal 14 year-old and therefore beyond the age limit for the Little League? That question may be answered today.

The question of Almonte's age goes beyond a trophy at the Little League World Series. It strikes at the heart of an impoverished country where baseball is the only ticket to success. Almonte is far from the first Hispanic Little Leaguer who has had questions swirl around his age. Though it's only the Little League, the potential for big bucks is riding on the outcome. And those big bucks open the door for potential abuse and fraud.

Almonte's father clearly brought his son to the United States to play baseball. That fact is not in dispute. In fact, the young star has not even attended school since he arrived in the United States. His entire focus was on baseball and taking his team to the World Series. But once he arrived at the baseball mecca, his domination of other 12 year-olds opened some eyes. And started some questions.

Records in his native country show Almonte is 14 years-old. Other documents, filed just before he left his country, indicate he is only 12. An investigation is under way primarily to maintain the integrity of the game.

Documents in the undeveloped Dominican are questionable at best. The mystery of Danny Almonte may never be fully resolved. But the stain on his team, his country and himself will remain for years to come.

Prospects of a lucrative baseball career are a passport out of poverty for some young Hispanic youth. And the prospects are so great it opens the door for fraud. Let's hope that's not the case for Danny Almonte.



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