Just 60 miles east of Williamsport, Pennsylvania, a Little League director sends his 4,000 players a clear message about the Houston Astros and its sign theft fraud.
José Altuve? Alex Bregman? Carlos Correa? They are all out.
"At the moment, the Astros are blocked in our leagues," said Bob Bertoni, head of Little League in District 16/31.
Bertoni recommends that no team in the 23 leagues he oversees use the Astros name this season after it was found that Houston was using a live camera feed to steal characters on their way to a 2017 World Series title , He said some teams used the name last year.
"I think of our Little League promise, that's the first thing that comes to mind: part of the promise is:" I will play fair and strive to win, "said Bertoni.
"Our children emulate and idolize big league players," he added. "I don't think we as an organization should adore teams that have decided not to follow the rules."
The Orange County Register reported last week that two Little League communities in Southern California have banned the Astros team's name for the coming season – a matter of ethics but also a reflection of the frustration after Houston's Los Angeles Dodgers in the world Series defeated in 2017.
Bertoni said his district, which covers all of Lucerne County in northwest Pennsylvania, was already considering banning the Astros name when he saw these headlines.
He also does not believe that he will be the last district administrator to take such action. Little League heads from across the country will meet in Hartford in two weeks, and Bertoni expects the Astros to be a hot topic of conversation.
"I think you will see it on a larger scale," he said.
Little League International, the Williamsport-based governing body for baseball and softball leagues around the world, said in a statement that it would not prevent districts or leagues from excluding the Astros name.
"Local Little League programs have long used the names of Major League baseball clubs for their local teams," it said. “The volunteers who run these programs are empowered to name their teams, which often reflects the interests of their community and baseball fans. This unfortunate situation has taught Little Leaguers an important lesson about following the rules.
“We appreciate our relationship with Major League Baseball and their efforts to expand the opportunities for youth baseball and softball. The best thing Little League International can do for MLB and the entire baseball community is to teach children how to play the sport according to the rules and with a high level of athleticism. "
Bertoni said he was concerned that impressive players could try to mimic parts of Houston's scheme in which players who watched the catcher's signals through a video feed near the shelter would knock on a trash can to announce the hits whether the thrower threw a fastball and broke the ball or change.
"That is the reason for the first step," said Bertoni. “If we haven't done anything, that opens the door so these kids can do it.
"We will train our managers and coaches to say," Steal signs, knock on a trash can, this nonsense is not what you do when you play baseball or softball. Fraud should never come into play. "
Bertoni said the parents' feedback was positive and some communities could not buy Astros uniforms this year if they wanted to. At least one supplier – Athletic Image in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania – told Bertoni that his company would not sell Astros hats or jerseys this season in protest.
"Is it insane? Yes, ”said Bertoni. "But I think in today's world there must be consequences for everyone's actions."