WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. -- The manager of the Australian team at the Little League World Series was suspended by Little League Baseball in June and was sitting in the stands as his team lost to Mexico 3-2 in its opener on Thursday.
As the parent of a child on the team, Klae Calvert is allowed to watch from the stands, but he's not allowed to be around the players or coaches to help them in any way.
Calvert, who coached his team through the state tournaments in Australia, was suspended by Little League Baseball in June for playing a game in which one of his 13 players did not have an at-bat. That player just happened to be his son, 9-year-old Thomas Calvert, who was left in the on-deck circle in the team's 5-2 victory in its first game of the national tournament that it eventually went on to win.
Calvert is the first manager in the history of the Little League World Series to be suspended for the duration of the tournament. That's because, in March, Little League Baseball changed the penalty for violating what is referred to as the "Mandatory Play Rule" from two games to a complete suspension.
"Early in tournament play, Klae Calvert was removed as the manager for Gold Coast Little League (Australia Region Champion) for the duration of the Little League International Tournament for a violation of the Little League Mandatory Play rule," said Little League Baseball spokesman Kevin Fountain, in a statement provided to ESPN. "As stated in Tournament Rule 9, Failure to meet the mandatory play requirements in this rule is a basis for protest. If one or more players on a roster do not meet this requirement, and if protested or brought to the Tournament Committee's attention, it shall result (by action of the Tournament Committee) in the removal of the team's manager, without replacement, for the remainder of the International Tournament. Gold Coast Little League will continue the remainder of the tournament with the two coaches as listed on their tournament affidavit."
Sources familiar with the recent process that changed the penalty from two games to a permanent suspension said that there was an opinion that managers were willing to take advantage of the rule, by sitting players and absorbing a suspension, as long as their team went on to win. Making the penalty permanent would reduce the temptation to game the system.
Calvert said he simply got caught in a juggling act that day and realized, with two outs in the bottom of the fifth inning, that if his player Matthew White got out, his son Thomas wouldn't get an at-bat if his team was able to finish off its opponents in the top of the sixth.
"I knew exactly what the stakes were there," Calvert said. "And I didn't think for a second about doing anything but doing what was right. I could have said that Thomas had sprained an ankle or I could have hit Thomas for Matt and hit him out of order and gotten a suspension of a couple games instead of for the entire tournament. But I played it the way Little League would have wanted me to play it."
Immediately after the game, Calvert said he and his colleagues called Little League to report what had happened and, after looking over the box score, confirmed that Calvert had been suspended for the duration of the tournament. In the meantime, his players continued to win with the dugout down to two coaches.
"Little League Baseball says they are about doing what is right for the kids," Calvert said. "I'm not sure how leaving them with two people in the dugout from three makes it less stressful for them. But they were resilient. My absence seemed to inspire them."
Calvert was banned from the venues during the team's run to Williamsport.
He said he stood on cars in a parking lot in Albert Park Baseball Complex for games located in southeastern Australia. For the final game, in which his team pitched a no-hitter, he said he stood on a sewer tank.
After Gold Coast became the first team to qualify for this year's tournament on June 11, Calvert and parents of the children on the Australian team prepared a plea to Little League Baseball by sending letters of support. They mentioned how his slighting of an at-bat couldn't have been strategic or intentional -- it was his own son. But it was to no avail. The organization responded by saying that the rules were the rules.
"There is no real appeals process here," Calvert said. "I very much respect the rules, but at the same time there has to be some understanding for how the dynamics work in the dugout."
Calvert, who spent years pitching in the minors and independent leagues, is trying to make the most of the trip.
He is a pilot for Virgin Australia and arranged to fly the boys on a Boeing 777 on their 12-hour, 44-minute trip from Australia to Los Angeles.