|Tuesday, September 4
School says records show Almonte is 14
SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic -- Danny Almonte's father was charged Tuesday with falsifying a birth certificate to make his son appear to be 12 when he actually was 14 -- and thus too old for Little League.
Felipe de Jesus Almonte "will be arrested as soon as he sets foot in this country," said Victor Romero, a public-records official in the Dominican Republic who determined the young pitcher's real age.
De Jesus, who is still in New York, faces three to five years in jail if convicted.
Danny's father has not made himself available to the media and could not be reached for comment on the latest charges.
Also on Tuesday, school officials said Almonte was finishing seventh grade in the Dominican Republic up to June -- another reason he should not have qualified for Little League championships.
Almonte finished seventh grade June 15 at the Andres Bello Primary School, said Bolivar de Luna Gomez, vice principal of the school in Moca, a small farming town 90 miles north of Santo Domingo.
That would have prevented the boy from playing the required six Little League games to qualify for the championships.
"We can't lie," Gomez told The Associated Press. "He was here and the records show this. It is the truth, and if authorities ask us to turn the documents in, we are ready to do so."
Newsday and The New York Times had earlier reported on Almonte attending the Dominican Republic school in the 2000-01 academic year.
Joann Dalmau, spokeswoman for Almonte's Bronx, N.Y.-based Rolando Paulino All-Stars team, denied the boy had lived in the Dominican Republic until June.
"I saw him in May here, playing in a regular-season game," she said. "So there was no way he was in the Dominican Republic in June."
But Romero confirmed Almonte had been in a Dominican school until June.
The New York team was stripped of its third-place finish in the World Series after Almonte's real age was revealed Friday. Little League also voided all of Almonte's records, including a perfect game.
Depending on the weather, Little League seasons start as early as February and as late as June 1, with the all-star tournament that leads to the Little League World Series beginning July 1. To be on a league's all-star team and participate in the tournament, a player must have played in at least half of his team's games by June 15.
Little League spokesman Lance Van Auken said that would have been impossible for Almonte.
"If he wasn't in the country until after June 15, then it seems impossible that he would have been eligible under those conditions as well," Van Auken said. "It adds to the weight of evidence against Rolando Paulino and anyone else who might have known Danny was ineligible."
Three of the boys on the team were born in the Dominican Republic, one was born in Puerto Rico, and the rest are of Dominican descent.
Van Auken said the president of each league -- in Almonte's case, Paulino -- signs an affidavit verifying the eligibility of each player in the tournament.
Paulino, founder and president of the league that bears his name, was banned for life from any affiliation with Little League because of the age controversy, as was Almonte's father.
Gomez also confirmed Almonte is registered as having been born on April 7, 1987, as the government ruled Friday.
Jose Rojas, Almonte's uncle who initially said the boy had been in the United States for nearly two years, retracted his earlier statement, saying it was possible he was in Moca until June.
Hector Pereira, president of the Dominican Baseball Federation, appealed Tuesday on behalf of the boy, saying "Danny is a phenomenon and anything around him is news, but if they continue investigating, they can psychologically harm the kid."
Meanwhile Tuesday, Danny and his father were on their way to register him to attend school in the Bronx, said Jennifer Falk, spokeswoman for the New York's Administration of Children's Services.
"We've satisfied our concerns -- to make sure he's registered for school," she said.
Paulino denies the accusations against him and will fight to keep a leading role in the Bronx league that he founded, a spokeswoman, Joan Dalmau, told the Times.
"He is definitely going to be involved," said Dalmau, who said she is also Danny's godmother. "I don't think this is something we can keep him out of. This is his league. We can't take that away from him."
Danny Almonte will begin attending public school this week after child welfare workers met with him and his father on Friday, Dalmau told the Times. But there are plans to enroll him later in a private school because of the publicity surrounding the controversy.
Dalmau also told the Times she had spent the last three days with the family, and she quoted Danny as saying, "I know my age; they don't know."
Dalmau also added that Felipe has left New York to find evidence that will prove his son is 12.
Almonte was the most dominating pitcher at the World Series this year, throwing a perfect game in the opener against Apopka, Fla. He struck out the first 15 Apopka batters in the first perfect game in 44 years at the tournament.
He followed that with a one-hit shutout in the U.S. semifinals against an Oceanside, Calif., team that came in averaging .333 with five batters at .500 or better. He finished the tournament with 46 strikeouts, giving up only three hits in three starts. A run scored in last inning of his final game was the only run scored on Almonte all summer.
Behind Almonte's pitching and a solid defense, the Bronx team went 4-1 at the World Series and finished third. The team's only loss was a rematch against Apopka in which Almonte couldn't pitch because of a rule that prohibits pitchers from starting consecutive games.
Almonte became a sensation after throwing 16 strikeouts in the Mid-Atlantic Regional championship against State College. His perfect game only added to his reputation, and major leaguers Randy Johnson and Ken Griffey Jr. both contacted Almonte to wish him luck.
But rumors about Almonte's age plagued the team throughout the tournament, and Little League coaches in Staten Island, N.Y., and Pequannock, N.J., said they had hired private investigators to find proof that Bronx players were ineligible, to no avail.
Last Monday, however, Little League officials in South Williamsport began an investigation into Almonte's age after Sports Illustrated uncovered the document that said he was born in 1987.
After their third-place finish, Almonte and his team were honored in New York, receiving the keys to the city, a parade through the Bronx and a tribute at Yankee Stadium, even as the controversy flared.