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Willmar, Atwater booted from playoffs

WILLMAR -- Amateur Baseball's State Board ruled Monday night at their meeting that the Willmar Rails and Atwater Chuckers of the Cornbelt League have each been kicked out of postseason play because they each had an ineligible player.

WILLMAR -- Amateur Baseball's State Board ruled Monday night at their meeting that the Willmar Rails and Atwater Chuckers of the Cornbelt League have each been kicked out of postseason play because they each had an ineligible player.

The Cornbelt League also had a meeting in an adjacent room at the American Legion in Willmar Monday night and ruled that Willmar and Atwater would have to forfeit any wins this season that an ineligible player had participated in. Willmar's ineligible player, Anthony Stern, had played in five of the team's seven wins. Atwater's ineligible player, Justin Downes, had played in four of the Chuckers' six wins.

Cornbelt League South president Mike Nagel, also the Bird Island manager, presented the league's ruling to the state board. But the state board overturned the league's ruling and made Willmar and Atwater ineligible for the rest of the season. And they also ruled that neither team will be allowed to have any of its players drafted by another team for the playoffs.

Stern, a pitcher, had signed a contract in 2005 as required for all players. But he also was granted a release in 2007, but never re-signed a contract for this season. Players ask for their release so they may can sign with another team if they relocate.

Atwater discovered that Downes, also a pitcher, was playing for an amateur team in South Dakota this summer, which is illegal in Minnesota. The Chuckers released him when they found out about the incident.

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"I didn't think it was fair that Atwater was kicked out of the playoffs because it had no idea he was playing somewhere else," said Nagel. "What if a player was upset that he wasn't playing enough and went and played with another team just to spite the team he was playing for? He could get the whole team kicked out and no one could be drafted. But (the state board) didn't see it my way at all. I think that rule needs to be changed."

Nagel also appealed to the state board on Willmar's behalf, saying the Rails had a first-year manager (Mark Krogstad) and should be given some leniency. Again, the state disagreed.

The North and South Divisions of the Cornbelt League are scheduled to begin playoffs next week, but will have to alter the original plans now that each division has one team less. Willmar was in fifth place in the six-team South Division, while Atwater was third in the six-team North Division.

Related Topics: BASEBALL
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