A pair of mandatory school events and a schedule conflict meant the sudden end of the season for some Little Leaguers in Hewlett-Woodmere, when their league was unable to reschedule a playoff game to be held at the same time.
The Hewlett-Woodmere Mets were on a four-game winning streak and had reached the quarterfinals of the league playoffs, but both the game and two elementary school affairs - a concert and an intercultural dance - were slated for last Monday evening.
Hewlett-Woodmere Little League president Richard Kahn said coaches had the playoff schedule for more than a week, but said he was not notified of the conflict until the night before the game. Even then, Kahn said, the league tried to find another time for the playoff between the Mets and their opponent, the Reds.
Ultimately, the small window before the championship game and other scheduling difficulties prevented them from finding another time, Kahn said, and the Mets forfeited.
Parent Beth Fliegel said the players are devastated, and she lashed out at the league.
"My son asked me why he has to pick between baseball and school, and I didn't know how to answer him," she said. "This is a bunch of adults saying to kids they can't play the game they love. These parents are trying to live vicariously through their kids, and win at all cost."
Kahn said schedules were sent to team managers a week before the playoffs with a note asking them to point out scheduling conflicts as soon as possible.
But Mets coach Victor Rodriguez said he first learned of the conflict when an umpire updated him on the schedule after the Mets won their first playoff game Sunday on an eighth-inning RBI single from Adam Aller. Nine of the team's 13 players had school events that had long been on the academic calendar.
"Our whole team wanted to win," said Adam, 10, who was required to attend a multicultural dance at Hewlett Elementary School. "I was upset that we couldn't play. Everyone thought school was more important. I didn't think so, but my mom said I had to go to the dance."
The team's plight attracted the attention of the New York Yankees, who offered tickets to a home game, said Adam's mother, Susan. A public relations representative for the Yankees could not be reached Friday night.
Kahn said the decision came down to what was best for the league.
"I'm not saying there isn't a reason to be upset. We approached this just like an umpire makes a call," he said. "You may not like the call, but you have to understand he isn't doing it out of spite."