Experts determine Almonte's age was falsified

Saturday, September 1, 2001

SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic -- Little League pitcher Danny Almonte is no longer perfect -- because he's no longer 12.

The boy who dominated the Little League World Series with his 70 mph fastballs was ruled ineligible Friday after government records experts determined he actually is 14, and that birth certificates showing he was two years younger were false.

The finding nullified all the victories by his Bronx, N.Y., team, the Rolando Paulino Little League All-Stars, and wiped out all its records -- including Almonte's perfect game and an earlier no-hitter.

It also left his father, Felipe de Jesus Almonte, facing criminal charges for falsifying documents, and may lead to charges against his mother as well.

"Clearly, adults have used Danny Almonte and his teammates in a most contemptible and despicable way," said Stephen D. Keener, president and CEO of Little League Baseball in South Williamsport, Pa. "We're clearly sad and angry that we were deceived. In fact, millions of Little Leaguers around the world were deceived."

The Bronx league's founder, Rolando Paulino, was banned for life from any association with Little League, although the team's charter was not revoked. Almonte's father also was banned for life from associating with Little League.

"I feel like the government has sold us out," Almonte's maternal uncle, Jose Rojas, told The Associated Press in a telephone interview from the boy's hometown of Moca. He said Almonte would return home soon but declined to elaborate.

A week that began with Almonte pitching a two-hitter to win third place in the World Series started unraveling the next day, when Little League officials opened an investigation after Sports Illustrated uncovered a document that said he was born in 1987.

Almonte's mother, Sonia Rojas Breton, who lives in Moca, produced a handwritten, photocopied birth certificate that said her son was born April 7, 1989. But Moca's official records office had another birth certificate that said he was born April 7, 1987.

Another handwritten document from Dr. Toribio Bencosme Hospital in Moca surfaced, saying a woman named Rojas gave birth to a boy there on April 7, 1987. Rojas, who says she gave birth to Almonte at home in the nearby town of Jamao, insisted all documents but hers were false.

Little League rules prohibit any player born before Aug. 1, 1988, from competing this year.

Victor Romero of the public records office in Santo Domingo investigated Almonte's birth documents in Moca, about 90 miles north of the capital. He also investigated records from the nearby town of Jamao and spoke to witnesses.

"There are a number of contradictions in the second birth certificate," Romero said, referring to the document listing the 1989 date. "Neither the witnesses, the hospital, nor the local authorities could confirm Almonte was born in Jamao."

The witnesses denied knowing the family or having signed the birth certificate, said Ramon Morel Cerda, the president of the Dominican Electoral Committee, which is in charge of most public records.

The government plans to charge the boy's father with falsifying documents, and was considering charges against the mother, Morel said.

The town official from Jamao who registered Danny's age as 12 last year has been suspended, he said.

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