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Gerbasi says United Youth Sports couldn't provide valid boundaries for their players. Like the Paulino All-Stars, United draws kids from all over the Bronx, making Little League-required insurance invalid, Gerbasi says, if an injury occurs outside the league boundaries. The lack of boundaries also violates the regional structure of the Little League, and promotes the recruitment, poaching, and preferential treatment of talented players, say Little League officials.
"All they did was knock Rolando Paulino," says Gerbasi. "Now it turns out they were doing the same thing. . . . You notice that they only steal the good players. The bad players are left out, and that's not what Little League is about."
People call Gerbasi to ask how to become an official league, but established leagues, he says, don't want to conform to Little League rules on boundaries and proof of age. Some callers are ambitious parents looking to raise their kids' profiles to Almonte proportions. Others chafe at the eligibility requirements, thinking they unfairly apply only to the Bronx, Gerbasi says, even though they are national (and international) regulations. And Gerbasi, the Bronx's only Little League representative, sounds fed up with all of it.
"They call up [to hear the rules] and they shake it off," he says. "They say, 'Yeah, yeah, yeah,' but they don't understand we can't deal with this nonsense anymore. This is volunteer work. There's nothing holding me to this position. . . . You see all this shit that goes on today. Parents are so hard on their kids, there's so much pressure. These fathers have the eyes of Yankee Stadium on their kids."
With the king gone and the pretenders to the throne apparently unable to take up his mantle, the Bronx kids will just have to go without the Little League. "A lot of times it takes one person, a real go-getter, a leadership type of person to come and put it all together," says Van Auken. "It may be that person is out there, waiting for the opportunity."
For now, the talented kids are recruited to play in private local leagues, leaving the Bronx baseball scene a balkanized mess.
"It's a no-win situation," Gerbasi says. "No one's ever going to be happy."