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FHS appeals TSSAA ruling

A Farragut father was scheduled to use his professional powers of persuasion seeking to soften a Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association ruling banning his son, and another prominent high school baseball athlete, from two national all-star games.

Phil Pfeifer, a Knox County attorney and father of Farragut High School All-state pitcher Philip Pfeifer, represented FHS’s appeal of the ruling before TSSAA Board of Controls in Murfreesboro, Wednesday afternoon, June 16, seeking “fairness” concerning Section 23(a).

The section states: “No student shall be permitted to participate in an all-star game unless it is sanctioned by the TSSAA and unless he/she has completed high school eligibility in that sport,” thus disallowing Philip and fellow rising senior Nicky Delmonico, Admirals All-state infielder, from participating as national all-star honorees.

The pair are invited to play in the Under Armour All-American Game Aug. 14 at Wrigley Field in Chicago, Ill. and the Aflac All-American Game Aug. 15 at PETCO Park in San Diego, Calif.

Although the section later states, “This regulation does not apply to summer baseball and girls softball,” Phil said, “I’m going to assume the rule technically applies. Basically what I’m arguing is different from that. I don’t think it is useful to get in a confrontation with TSSAA staff over what they think this means.”

Hoping that although the board might find such all-star participation technically against the rule but show mercy toward the pair, Phil said, “We’re going to find out how committed the Board of Controls is to being fair, so they’re not going to impose a punishment on people who deserved to be treated fairly.”

Phil said the rule was set up “without giving very much thought to spring athletes at all,” adding fall and winter sports athletes “can always participate in two sanctioned all-star contests during the school year.”

“Our concern is not just for the baseball kids, it’s for all spring sports. ... They have a rule that did not really take into account spring sports athletes. They have an opportunity to take those kids into account.”

The key difference is TSSAA sanctions those fall and winter all-star games, Phil added.

However, why were Philip and Nicky allowed to participate in “all-star” games representing the United States and leave the country for international competition the past two years?

“If you tell me we’ll both know,” Phil said. “I think the reason they were allowed was because we weren’t just playing in one game.”

Concerning the all-star games’ importance, Phil said, “This isn’t about exposure ... it’s about recognition for two boys who have left the country the past two years, and going to be leaving again.

“They’re accompanied by armed policemen armed with automatic weapons because everybody knows American athletes are targets,” he added. “They play before hostile crowds. ... and they come back with gold medals.”

These all-star games “on national television ... gives them an opportunity to get recognition on their own native soil ... and applauded for their accomplishments.”

With 15 minutes to make his case, Phil was accompanied by Dwayne Simmons, FHS athletics director and assistant principal.

Simmons said, “I actually think they ought to be allowed to go to all-star games because it helps the state of Tennessee.”

Matt Buckner, head coach of 2010 state champion FHS, said he’s “not sure why they can’t go. I know the rule, what it is ... I don’t know why football and basketball and everyone else can do such stuff as this and our guys can’t go to something they’re obviously deserving of.”

Simmons said he “understands” Tennessee is one of only two states, along with Michigan, that has such an all-star restriction.


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