The Little League World Series doesn't start until Thursday, but drama is already heating up over the game's unwritten rules.
Goffstown (N.H.) manager Pat Dutton accused Barrington, R.I.'s squad of stealing signs in the New England Regional Final in Bristol, Conn., on Saturday.
"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 told the New Hampshire Union Leader. "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."
Barrington won 6–4 to advance to the big stage in Williamsport, Penn., this weekend.
Dutton said he first noticed Barrington's sign-stealing during their semifinal game on Aug. 8, which Goffstown won 2–1. He alerted the home plate umpire of the offense in both the semifinal and final games.
According to Dutton, he spoke to the umpire about Barrington's offense on Saturday, but the team stole a sign again on the next pitch. The umpire issued warnings to the offending player and the club's manager. Under Little League rules, the player and manager should have been ejected from the game.
Dutton called out Barrington's coaches for teaching the players to cheat.
"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.
"Obviously the team condones it, they coach it, and, personally, that's something that I'm completely against. Little League is supposedly against it, but you wouldn't know it this week."