Sign stealing is one of baseball’s oldest traditions. While it’s not always a well-loved tactic, it’s a perfectly legitimate strategy ... unless you’re in Little League.
Turns out, sign stealing is against the rules in Little League. It’s actually part of the rule book. So when one Little League manager accuses another team of stealing signs to succeed, it’s a serious accusation.
That’s exactly what happened with two teams fighting to be the New England Region representative in the Little League World Series. Pat Dutton, a manager from Goffstown, New Hampshire, has accused the Barrington, Rhode Island team of stealing signs during a tournament, according to the New Hampshire Union Leader.
Dutton claims the players on the Barrington team were relaying signs from second base.
“You can see (runners on second base) leaning in, looking in and they’re doing hand gestures to their kid (at the plate) indicating what kind of pitch it is and where it’s located,” Dutton said. “You can do that in big league ball, but in Little League it’s unsportsmanlike, it’s dishonorable, and it’s disgusting. They did it the whole tournament and got away with it, and now that’s what’s representing New England in the Little League World Series. It’s just a bad look.”
Dutton’s accusation came after his team was defeated by Barrington in a regional final. The win helped Barrington reach the Little League World Series, where they will represent the New England Region.
It’s not the first time Dutton says he noticed Barrington stealing signs. Dutton claims he noticed it when the two teams played Aug. 8. He says he alerted the umpire during both games. Barrington was reportedly warned during a game, though neither the team’s coach or the player who stole the sign were ejected. Little League rules state that anyone caught stealing signs should be ejected from the game. Dutton, however, did not play the game under protest.
Barrington Little League responded to Dutton’s accusations, saying they are “false.”
While Dutton’s accusation could come off as sour grapes to some, the coach didn’t blame the sign stealing for his team’s loss. He admits his team was outplayed.
“It’s just frustrating to see teams and kids having to go about it that way when clearly they were playing better than we were,” he said. “They didn’t have to do that. That’s something these kids don’t learn on their own. That’s something that they’re taught. They’re coached to do that.”
Barrington is set to play its first game in the Little League World Series on Thursday.