Bend North Little League Coach Brett Hartlaub was holding onto a smidgen of hope that his team will be added to the Little League World Series following last week’s controversial end to their season.
“I slept last night with my cell phone on my nightstand, knowing that East Coast time was earlier,” Hartlaub said. “When I woke up (Monday) morning and there was no call, hope kind of went away at that point.”
Hartlaub admits that with the tournament starting on Wednesday, it would be a herculean effort to get his team to Williamsport, Pennsylvania in time should that phone ring.
Hartlaub said Monday that Little League Baseball has basically cut off communication despite his effort to have Bend North added as an 11th team to the World Series. He says he’s been told the tournament field will not be expanded.
“Little League is no longer responding to my phone calls or my emails at this point,” Hartlaub said. “They, I think, feel they have ruled on this issue.”
Hartlaub said the team pushed a social media campaign over the weekend to get Bend North added.
“The call to action was incredible and the amount of people who participated in that was surprisingly high and really fun to see,” he said.
Little League Baseball, in a text message, tells Central Oregon Daily News it has nothing more to say on the matter.
The team from Bonney Lake and Sumner, Washington, defeated Bend North 3-2 in extra innings last Thursday in the Northwest Regional Final. The controversy came on a ball hit down line and hit the ground just past third base.
The third base umpire called it foul. The home plate umpire called it fair.
The Washington player who was on first at the time rounded the bases and scored the winning run.
Hartlaub, who says the foul call should have ended the play then and there, called for a replay. After the umpires conferred, they let the fair call by the home plate umpire stand.
— John Mantalas (@john_mantalas) August 15, 2022
Hartlaub: We’re supportive of Team Washington, umpires
Hartlaub remains complimentary of the Washington team. He says Bend North doesn’t want to take Washington’s place in the World Series.
But he says his team should be invited as well and that the tournament could be adjusted to include Bend North.
Hartlaub also wants to be very clear. He is supportive of the umpires.
“Those players, those coaches, those umpires were under more pressure than any other game, I would assume, in their lives,” Hartlaub said. “One guy saw it one way. One guy saw it another way. The rulebook is clear.”
Hartlaub cites this line from page 34 of the Little League rulebook, which states “If a batted ball is inadvertently called ‘foul’, and it touches the ground in live ball territory it is irrevocably foul and the ball is dead.”
Little League Baseball released a statement Friday:
“In the final play of the 2022 Little League Baseball Northwest Region Championship Game, despite the on-field conclusion, the official call on the field was a far ball by the home plate umpire. Ultimately, upon video review, there was not clear and concise evidence to determine whether the ball was fair or foul, and the fair ball call was sustained. While we regret any confusion at the end of the game, we remain supportive of all the volunteers who were involved in this matter.”
Hartlaub says his issue is with the process. He expressed disappointment that the statement never addressed the foul call.
“It does not. That was our biggest frustration,” Hartlaub said.
To make his point clear, Hartlaub refers to an analogy that he tells his players. Regardless of what they think something should be called — ball or strike, fair or foul — it’s ultimately whatever the umpire calls it.
“The definition of a foul ball is whatever the umpire calls. And the umpire called that foul.” he said.
Little League Baseball has nothing to add
Central Oregon Daily News reached out to Little League Baseball Monday to ask if the organization was formally denying the request to add Bend North to the World Series and if it would address the rule that Hartlaub cites.
The response was “We have no further comment outside of our official statement. Thank you.”
Hartlaub thankful for the home support
Hartlaub also expressed his thanks to the Central Oregon community for its “overwhelming” support over the past few days.
“Thank you to this community for supporting these players and this team,” said Hartlaub. “Hundreds of text messages have come to me in support and in emails and instant messages and all that stuff. It’s been incredible. Bend loves baseball and Bend loves those kids so it’s really cool. I want a big thank you out there for that.”
Hartlaub also says that with the season ending, players are into transition mode.
“It’s time to go swimming. It’s time to hit the lakes. It’s time to get ready for football and soccer seasons,” Hartlaub said. “Most of those kids, obviously, there’s a propensity of athletes to play other sports. That transition’s beginning.”