Despite the allegations that Richard and Jesse Perry preyed on young boys who were involved in youth sports, King Phillip Little League president, Mark DeFelice, is confident that the safeguards in place, and the practices employed by the league, are sufficient to make little league baseball a positive experience.
“I think we do everything we can do. If someone said something that can make it safer, we would do it,” Mr. DeFelice said.
As most who are involved in youth sports, Mr. DeFelice began volunteering with the league when his son started playing. Since 2000, Mr. DeFelice has been involved with the league, taking on the responsibility of league president in 2012. During his time with the league, KPLL implemented background checks on volunteer managers and coaches.
“Our town was one of the first to put in our own background checks,” he said. “That was put in place prior to Little League mandating it.”
While criminal background checks add a level of assurance that those involved with youth leagues are of sound character, only those with a prior conviction would be flagged. The background checks don’t just look for sex offenders, he said. Any conviction that would put a person’s character into question would eliminate them from consideration.
“Could a person slip through the cracks? Yes,” Mr. DeFelice said.
But even those who came back ‘clean’ would be put before a panel of division directors to select the best coaches.
“All it would take is one person” to decline an applicant for them to be denied into the league,” Mr. DeFelice said. “Not just abuse charges. If they had a temper or just not good with kids.”
King Phillip Little League, like programs across the country, is run by volunteers.
“Just about every coach is a parent of a player. Others might be an uncle, but 99.9 percent are parents,” Mr. DeFelice said.
As far as Richard Perry’s involvement with the league, Mr. DeFelice said that since he’s been president of KPLL, Mr. Perry hasn’t been involved.
“He never applied to be a coach. He e-mailed me about doing umpire clinics. I told him we would get back to him. I never contacted him and he never contacted me after that,” Mr. DeFelice said.
“We’ve never had this situation,” he said.
Before the start of the baseball season, managers, coaches and other team volunteers discuss appropriate interactions with children.
“I think things are fine the way they stand,” Mr. DeFelice said about the volunteer screening process. “We’ve had coaches apply that nobody knew and they wouldn’t be selected. We’d ask them to stay involved.”
With KPLL sign-ups scheduled to begin for the spring baseball season, Mr. DeFelice hopes that the recent allegations don’t have a negative impact on the benefits of little league involvement.
“I don’t want parents concerned,” he said.