Youth team punished for pitcher’s talent



Jericho Scott, 9, warms up on the pitching mound in New Haven, Conn., on Saturday. He can pitch up to 40 mph. Douglas Healey, The Associated Press

By John Christoffersen

NEW HAVEN, Conn. – Nine-year-old Jericho Scott is a good baseball player – too good, it turns out.

The right-hander has a fastball that tops out at about 40 mph. He throws so hard that the Youth Baseball League of New Haven told his coach that the boy could not pitch any more. When Jericho took the mound anyway last week, the opposing team forfeited the game, packed its gear and left, his coach said.

Officials for the three-year-old league, which has eight teams and about 100 players, said they will disband Jericho’s team, redistributing its players among other squads, and offered to refund $50 sign-up fees to anyone who asks for it. They say Jericho’s coach, Wilfred Vidro, has resigned.

But Vidro says he didn’t quit and the team refuses to disband. Players and parents held a protest at the league’s field on Saturday urging the league to let Jericho pitch.

“He’s never hurt any one,” Vidro said. “He’s on target all the time. How can you punish a kid for being too good?”

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    The controversy bothers Jericho, who says he misses pitching.

    “I feel sad,” he said. “I feel like it’s all my fault nobody could play.”

    Jericho’s coach and parents say the boy is being unfairly targeted because he turned down an invitation to join the defending league champion, which is sponsored by an employer of one of the league’s administrators.

    Jericho instead joined a team sponsored by Will Power Fitness. The team was 8-0 and on its way to the playoffs when Jericho was banned from pitching.

    “I think it’s discouraging when you’re telling a 9-year-old you’re too good at something,” said his mother, Nicole. “The whole objective in life is to find something you’re good at and stick with it. I’d rather he spend all his time on the baseball field than idolizing someone standing on the street corner.”

    League attorney Peter Noble says the only factor in banning Jericho from the mound is his pitches are just too fast.

    “He is a very skilled player, a very hard thrower,” Noble said. “There are a lot of beginners. This is not a high-powered league. This is a developmental league whose main purpose is to promote the sport.”

    Noble acknowledged that Jericho had not beaned any batters in the coed league of 8- to 10-year-olds, but say parents expressed safety concerns.

    “Facing that kind of speed” is frightening for beginning players, Noble said.

    League officials said they suggested that Jericho play other positions on his team, or pitch against older players or in a different, more advanced league.