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No problem, Engle says Warner told him. As long as KHO abided by league rules during tournament play, they could do whatever they wanted during the regular season.
Reached on his home phone, Warner sounds badgered on all sides. "I'm the one that's the bad guy," he says between long, wheezing coughs, "because I'm the one that said you could play however you want during the season — which is not exactly how it happened."
But, as he explains it, his advice wasn't far off: "I said I have no problems with your local rules, as long as they conform to Little League rules, basically — within reason — and come tournament time, you return to Little League rules."
A spokesman at Little League, informed of Warner's response, hedges gracefully. "I couldn't comment on that," media relations manager Chris Downs says, "because I wasn't at that board meeting."
But Warner says Little League already knows of his dubious advice. "I got yelled at," explains the unpaid volunteer. "You wanna blame somebody, blame me. I don't really give a shit anymore. I'm fed up with the crap."
Miranda counters, "If they had a rogue DA giving us permission he wasn't allowed to give, why is that our problem?"
As far as the issue of crossover between Team Miami, the travel ball players, and the KHO All-Star team, Miranda says, nearly every travel ball player moonlights on some Little League team. But league honchos maintain the problem isn't that the Kendall kids played travel ball, but that they did so together, gaining experience as a team other Little League All-Star teams didn't get.
Miranda briefly threatened legal action — until he received a letter from a local law firm retained by Little League. Densely packed with references to legal precedents, it was the type of letter that only a lawyer can read, but with a message anybody could understand: You can give up now.
For the most part, that's what Miranda and the rest of the KHO folks have done. But the coach still scans Little League results with one eye. Coral Springs, so badly beaten by Kendall-Hammocks, lost its state tourney game by only one run, assuring Miranda that his team would have advanced. And when ESPN begins airing the final rounds of the World Series, he won't be able to help but wonder how badly his team of unbeatable prepubescents might have mangled the competition.
The two organizations have taken on the roles of wounded lovers. If KHO is to regain its charter, its administrators must swear to follow the rules this time. But for now, they're in no mood to beg. Says Engle: "We feel very manipulated by the whole thing."
There's some good news, though: The kids — who have sometimes seemed an afterthought in this scandal — have so far staved off that feared apathy. On a muggy Friday evening on a diamond in Allapattah, the banned players, wearing Team Miami uniforms, played with the skill and speed of high-schoolers. They won, but by only two runs, against the South Florida Suns, a team with deep enough pockets to fly in subs from Puerto Rico and California. In travel ball, these Kendall-Hammocks kids finally get some competition.