- The Washington Times - Friday, August 31, 2001

SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic (AP) An empty desk delayed the official word on whether pitching star Danny Almonte is too old for Little League.

Investigators extended the suspense yesterday, putting off an announcement on the boy's real age.

That decision could either vindicate the young pitcher or strip his New York team of its third-place title in the Little League World Series.

Victor Romero of the public records office traveled to Almonte's hometown of Moca, about 90 miles north of the capital, on Wednesday to try to determine from conflicting documents whether the boy is 12 years old the Little League limit or 14.

He was expected to announce his findings yesterday, but the president of the registrar's office never showed up. Results of the investigation would be released today, Romero said. No time was set.

Stephen D. Keener, president and chief executive officer of Little League Baseball in South Williamsport, Pa., said they would abide by the Dominican government's ruling on the documents and then determine what, if any, action would be taken.

Meanwhile, a U.S. official who asked not to be identified said Almonte and his father, Felipe de Jesus Almonte, are in the United States illegally. They had applied to come to the United States in June 2000 and were issued tourist visas that expired six months after their arrival, the official said.

The New York Post initially reported Aug. 23 that the youngster's visa had expired.

Joann Delmau, a spokeswoman for his team, the Rolando Paulino All-Stars, said Danny and his father would meet with an attorney today, although neither could be reached immediately for comment yesterday.

"This is a very difficult time for Danny Almonte and his family and we ask that everyone respect their privacy," she said.

Little League officials have said Danny's immigration status did not affect his eligibility since all that is required is that a child be of age and that a parent or legal guardian live in the community he represents.

Rumors about Danny's age plagued the team throughout the Little League World Series, but officials didn't raise the issue until Monday, when Sports Illustrated reported that Danny's father had registered his son's birth twice.

Last year, Danny moved with his father to the Bronx, N.Y., and began playing Little League baseball. He threw the first perfect game in the Little League World Series since 1957 before the Rolando Paulino All-Stars were defeated by Apopka, Fla. Danny finished the tournament with 46 strikeouts.

Danny's mother, Sonia Rojas Breton, has a handwritten photocopied birth certificate that says Danny was born April 7, 1989. Ten blocks from her house in Moca, the town's official records office has another birth certificate that says Danny was born April 7, 1987.

Also yesterday, the New York Daily News reported that Danny had not attended school since moving to the United States. Team officials said he attended a public school in the South Bronx, but records don't reflect that, and principal Saul Brodsky said Danny had never enrolled.

Board of Education spokeswoman Margie Feinberg said records show Danny is not enrolled in any school.

"We have contacted the city's Administration for Children's Services to look into the matter. We plan to send an attendance teacher to his home as soon as we are able to verify his address," she said.

"He did not study this past year because he was having trouble speaking English. So he wasn't enrolled," the Daily News quoted de Jesus as saying. When asked what his son had been doing for the last 18 months, de Jesus said, "He has been eating … and he has been playing ball."

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