DOMINICAN government official says Little League star is 14 _ not 12


Friday, August 31st 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6


SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic (AP) _ Little League star pitcher Danny Almonte is 14 years old, not 12, a Dominican official said Friday in a finding that could strip his team of its third-place finish in the World Series.

Investigators from the government records office went through birth documents in Almonte's hometown of Moca, about 90 miles north of the capital of Santo Domingo. The birth certificate suggesting the boy was 12 _ the Little League limit _ was not convincing, said Victor Romero from the records office in Santo Domingo.

``There are a number of contradictions in the second birth certificate,'' Romero said.

Danny's mother, Sonia Rojas Breton, has a handwritten photocopied birth certificate that says the boy 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.

Another handwritten document from Dr. Toribio Bencosme Hospital in Moca states that a woman named Rojas gave birth to a boy there on April 7, 1987.

Rojas, who says she gave birth to Danny at home in the nearby town of Jamao, insists all documents but hers are false.

But ``neither the witnesses, the hospital, nor the local authorities could confirm Almonte was born in Jamao,'' Romero said.

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

The team could be stripped of its title, officials say. Danny led his team to the U.S. championship, throwing the first perfect game in the Little League World Series since 1957. His team lost to Apopka, Fla., but won a consolation game for third place.

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 applied to come to the United States in June 2000 and were issued tourist visas, but the visas 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 Friday. Neither could be reached for comment.

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

The two have been living in the Bronx borough of New York City, home of the Rolando Paulino All-Stars Little League team. Child welfare officials there were investigating allegations that Danny had not attended school for more than a year, New York's Daily News reported Friday.

Team officials had 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.

Joann Dalmau, a spokeswoman for the Bronx team, said Danny and his father would meet with an attorney Friday. Neither Danny nor his father could be reached for comment.

``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 to play because 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.