G.P. Woods-Shores says it's playing within the rules

By Tom Robinson
Special to The Detroit News
Grosse Pointe Woods-Shores' Ryan Knaebel drove in the winning run with a walk-off single in Friday's 5-4 win over Coeur d'Alene, Idaho.

South Williamsport, Pa. — As the Grosse Pointe Woods-Shores Little League celebrated the biggest victory in the successful program’s history, the team’s parents stood behind the records and documentation that support the eligibility of the players who advanced in the U.S. winners’ bracket of the Little League Baseball World Series with a dramatic, 5-4 victory over Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, on Friday.

Earlier in the day, the Indianapolis Star reported that there had been a request from the New Albany, Ind., team and at least one Michigan team to check the eligibility and residency of some Grosse Pointe Woods-Shores players.

Little League Baseball reiterated late Friday that it has no evidence of violations.

“Grosse Pointe Woods-Shores Little League has provided documentation to support the residency and school enrollment eligibility requirements of all the players on their 2018 Little League Baseball tournament team in accordance with Little League’s residency/school enrollment requirements,” Little League International spokesman Kevin Fountain said in a written statement in response to a Detroit News question. “Based on the information that has been provided, Little League International has not found any reason to deem Grosse Pointe Woods-Shores Little League ineligible from the Little League International Tournament.

“Should additional information become available, it will be taken under review.”

Grosse Pointe Woods-Shores manager Kurt Barr limited his comments on the subject after the team rallied from three runs down in the bottom of the sixth inning to win a bracket game in the tournament for the first time in Woods-Shores’ four trips.

“I have seen it and I’m not surprised by it,” Barr said of the report that followed rumors of complaints during the Great Lakes Regional tournament outside Indianapolis, where Grosse Pointe Woods-Shores pounded New Albany, 13-0, in the title game last week.

“But, I do not have any comments. We have provided the appropriate responses to Little League and such and that’s not something I’m going to comment on.”

More: Powerful Purify leads Grosse Pointe into Little League World Series

After watching her son, Elliott, drive in one run and score the winner during the sixth-inning rally, Maria Nederhood stood behind the team and its administration.

League president Melissa Champine-Henderson is an assistant coach to Barr on the all-star team, and both of them have sons on the roster.

“I will say that Coach Melissa is not only the coach of our team, but she’s also the president of our Little League and I can’t think of anyone who has higher integrity,” Maria Nederhood said. “She would never disobey any rules.”

While discussing the meaning of Friday’s win and team’s celebration prior to being asked about the newspaper report, Nederhood spoke of how many of the players had been together since they were 8-year-olds.

“When we sign up for the league, we give the birth certificate and the school district information,” Nederhood said. “We’ve been checked out on the district level, at the state level at the regional level.

“It’s unfortunate that it’s distracting from the joy that is here. We’re just so happy to be here.”

On Friday night, Woods-Shores was not just in the Little League World Series, it was progressing in the bracket, advancing to Sunday's 2 p.m. game against Hawaii on ABC. 

“I’m thrilled for the entire team,” Nederhood said. “They kind of set a goal to win a game that matters here.

“I’m just so happy for them.”

Tom Robinson is a freelance writer.