No one is more passionate about Babe Ruth baseball than Ray Wilde.
That alone is why the folks who are bashing Ray for the outcome of the District 7 14-year-old tournament need to stop.
It's true that, by the high standards of Babe Ruth in Mifflin County, this year's 14-year-old tournament was a disaster. In fact, none of the three age groups offered much of a tournament.
Ray shares some of the blame for the failures of this year's debacles, but he's hardly alone - and he surely isn't responsible for a situation that already was out of his control.
The failures of Babe Ruth in District 7 didn't begin with Ray, and I'm not so sure they end with him either.
The problems begin at the top - not the top of the district, which is Ray, but at the state level. The fact that the state organization has allowed District 7 to fester to the point that there are only two viable leagues is ridiculous. Congress and the state legislature are reapportioned every so often, and it seems like it's long past time to do the same here.
The state Babe Ruth website shows about 60 leagues across the commonwealth. There are eight districts; that's between seven and eight teams per district, if they are evenly divided out. Some of the charters are inactive - the state lists Gettysburg and Upper Adams, for example, leagues that no longer participate in District 7. It's time to realize they're not coming to the party.
A best-of-three district tournament is somewhat specious, and the fact that one age division was won by forfeit this year - the 15-year-olds from Mifflin County were unchallenged - brings into question the legitimacy of the organization.
Of the two remaining tournaments, the 13-year-olds finished, but the 14-year-olds didn't. Part of that, admittedly, was due to scheduling decisions made by Ray in his role as District 7 commissioner. As I've told him several times in the past week, this thing could have been wrapped up in a day if he could just get over his fear of doubleheaders.
But the folks who run Armagh Field in Milroy share a small amount of the blame, too. When Tuesday's game was called off due to a downpour, the decision was made to postpone to Thursday based on a forecast. That was not a good decision - especially with the unreliability of summer weather forecasting.
If it had rained again Wednesday, as organizers anticipated, they could have made a decision that day to move forward a second time. As it turned out, a game could have been played that night, and a true champion declared later in the week.
Another shower Thursday led to another delay. That, too, is a sign of a problem. The field at Milroy is a nice one indeed, but if it requires so much time to dry, then maybe another field should be looked at for Babe Ruth tournaments. I've seen fields take torrential rain and be playable 90 minutes later.
That brings us to Friday, and the debacle that began before Ray showed up at the field - which, more than anything else, is why the outcome is not his fault. Managers from both Mifflin County and Perry County decided they were not going to play a third game, regardless of the outcome of the second. Mifflin County won the first, Perry County the next - a 1-1 tie.
Ray, acting not as Mifflin County Babe Ruth but as District 7, had to make a decision. Locals apparently felt he should have scheduled a game and see who showed up - and if it was just one team, give it a win by forfeit and the district title. The prevailing assumption is that the local squad would have made it.
Ray points out that if he wanted to rig it for Mifflin County, he could have done just that. Or, he noted, Perry County might have showed up - and Mifflin County might have stayed home. Hard to say. He didn't create the situation.
Yes, Ray could have scheduled more games early in the week, and I'm sure he will learn from his hesitance to change after he learned the 15-year-olds were not playing. The state, one can hope, has learned from this, and will either move more teams into District 7 or dissolve it and move these two elsewhere.
I'm sure most of the people clamoring for Ray's head just wanted a championship game - no matter who won it. They want Mifflin County to have had a chance. But, as Ray says, who could feel good about it if Mifflin County was handed the crown by receiving a forced forfeit from a team that just won a huge victory over the locals the day before?
Ray tells me he was verbally assaulted when he went to church Sunday. Really? After everything he's done in support of the kids of this community and this baseball league?
Ray Wilde deserves better.
Jeff Fishbein is sports editor of The Sentinel. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.