SOUTH WINDSOR, July 24 – The Avon American Legion baseball team was jarred in the first inning of Saturday’s state tournament game with RCP (Rocky Hill, Cromwell, Portland) when catcher Jeremy Zarwanski and manager Donny Annicelle were ejected from the game for the use of an illegal bat.
Zarwanski used a composite wood bat that contained some metal in it. A year ago, it was legal to use composite wood bats in American Legion baseball games in Connecticut. But the state American Legion baseball committee voted to use pure wood bats this season.
Zarwanski, the No. 4 hitter in Avon’s lineup had an RBI single Saturday. But RCP coach T.J. Grande asked the umpires to inspect Zarwanski’s bat. Grande said he is familiar with the look of composite wood bats since they were used by teams across the state a year ago.
“I know what they look like,” Grande said. “I was looking at my catcher and it caught my eye. I felt bad about it but I have to look out for my guys.”
Most wood composite bats are labeled as such. Two weeks ago, Grande alerted umpires to a West Hartford player using a wood composite bat and that player was ejected from the contest.
“It is my responsibility to make sure all of the equipment is proper and I overlooked that,” Annicelle said on Sunday. “So, that all comes down to me.” American Legion rules dictated that Annicelle be thrown out of the game, too.
Once the bat was determined to be illegal, Zarwanski was called out and the runners were returned to the bases where they were when he came to bat.
Zarwanski played against Tolland on Sunday and Annicelle was back on the bench. They could have been suspended for additional games if Craig Zimmerman, the state director of the Connecticut American Legion baseball tournament, felt they were trying to gain a competitive advantage.
“In our judgement, no one doctored a bat. No one was trying to get a competitive advantage. Someone just make a mistake,” Zimmerman said.
In previous years, members of the state Legion committee inspected equipment before state tournament games, Zimmerman said. This year, the committee left it up to the coaches to ensure that their team’s equipment meets state regulations.
Coaches were informed about the rules concerning wooden bats at a coaches training session in March and in meetings during this tournament, including a meeting on Friday night. Information about the bats is also available on the Connecticut American Legion’s website.
Zimmerman said that 65 to 70 percent of teams voted in favor of using all wood bats last winter while 20 percent voted to continue using composite wood bats.
Avon lost Zarwanski for the rest of Saturday’s game with RCP. But the next batter following Zarwanski’s ejection, Andrew LeDuc, ripped an RBI single to give Avon a 1-0 lead. Avon took a 2-1 lead in the top of the eighth inning before RCP rallied with two runs in the bottom of the eighth to beat Post 201 by a score of 3-2.
While Connecticut is among a handful of states that dictate that American Legion baseball be played with wooden bats, most states do play with metal bats. Everyone, including the Connecticut teams, will be using metal bats at the upcoming Northeast Regional tournament at Muzzy Field on August 3-7. Connecticut began playing with wood bats in 2010.