WARREN - David Gut (pronounced Goot) played all 18 of his regular-season games on his 9-10-year-old baseball team.
But when it came to playing in the postseason, he didn't.
David, who has Asperger's syndrome, a form of autism, wasn't informed when his team's first postseason game was to be played.
According to mayoclinic.com, "Asperger's syndrome is a developmental disorder that affects a person's ability to socialize and communicate effectively with others. Children with Asperger's syndrome typically exhibit social awkwardness and an all-absorbing interest in specific topics."
The 9-10 Sandy's Tire team from the LaBrae Athletic Club, whose team finished the regular season 15-3, played without David, despite numerous attempts by his father, Jeremy, to get a hold of his coach Shawn Phillips.
"Our coach didn't tell us about tournaments," said David, 9, as he watched Monday's game between Sandy's Tire and Newton Falls' Zip Lube in a 9-10 Cal Ripken championship game at Burbank Park. "Then, he told everyone else we went on vacation. Before this (Monday's) game, he told us how they had the tournament games already."
Tribune Chronicle / Dave Dermer
Leavittsburg 9-year-old David Gut, explains why he wasn’t part of his team’s first two postseason games.
Jeremy, David's father, was quick to say that team sponsor, players and the parents were not to blame for why his son was not playing in two tournament games last week, one of which was against the Southington Junior Outlaws.
"Why did he ignore us? Why did he lie to the Southington coach that we were on vacation?," said Jeremy, 28, of his son's coach. "He replied back to me that we're giving our kids an even chance against the other teams. The way I took that is our kid is not good enough. I know he's got Asperger's. His motor skills aren't that good. Smart kid. He loves being with the team. He felt left out after we told him what happened."
Then, Monday morning, the LAC board stepped in as it suspended Phillips for the remainder of the season.
"As far as what happened, we don't condone that at the LAC Board," LAC secretary Tony Stephens said. "Every kid is treated equal on this team. If we have a coach that goes outside the rules, we take immediate actions.
"The allegations are serious and we take them seriously."
LAC president George Kaschak was disappointed to hear of the allegations.
"I'm not making excuses, but I've never been in that spot," said Kaschak, who also coaches youth baseball. "People get competitive and make mistakes for whatever reasons. You lose focus of whatever and we've got to be reminded who we're doing this for. The organization is rec ball and we have to continually stress that.
"It is rec ball and it's for all the kids. That's the way we've done things. You're playing to win, but there's integrity and a teaching model, whether you know it or not, when you take upon the part of coaching. You're actually a teacher. More times than not, we tell the coaches, whether you know it or not, you're passing on a lot of life skills."
This is David's first year of kid-pitch ball and he played two years of T-ball and two years of coach-pitch at Lordstown prior to moving to Leavittsburg and playing in the LAC. Jeremy is a 2002 graduate of LaBrae High School.
One of David's coaches last year, Tony Hufford, 30, who now coaches and lives in Newton Falls, said he was dismayed at David's plight.
"It was disappointing to hear that to say the least. I think what was more upsetting was the lies that were being associated with why they weren't able to come to the games," Hufford said. "When you have a situation like this and you have tournaments, it's one thing to stack a team or put star players together.
"You like to hear that coaches have more to them than strictly playing to win. Everybody wants to win, but there's a lot of things taken away from the game other than that."
Kaschak, on the other hand, was shocked to learn that Phillips was accused of this allegation.
"I can tell you I know Shawn personally, for a while," Kaschak said. "This is very uncharacteristic of him, deliberate or whatever was done. The guy's done a lot of work for the LAC and the community. It's bad for all of us. If it would've been any of us, the course would've been the same. We're all friends. We're all a small community. We all know each other. We all know each other pretty well."
Phillips then reached out to Jeremy and told him Monday around 12:30 p.m. that the title game started around 6 p.m.
"He apologized to me," Jeremy said. "He let me know that the game was going to be here tonight around 6 o'clock. He won't be here though because they suspended him.
"He said there will be 10 boys in the dugout upset about this, which kind of caught me off guard because he's trying to turn this situation on me because of what he did."
Phillips did not want to comment to the Tribune Chronicle.
"I'm really not going to discuss it with the Tribune," he said.
Jeremy asked David if he wanted to play Monday.
"He still wanted to come to the game," Jeremy said. "He still wants his team to win. He doesn't want to play because if they win, they can win without him. If they lose, they lose without him. He'll know it's not him. We made that decision completely up to him. We kept asking him, 'Do you want to dress or play?' We brought his uniform in case he wanted to change his mind."
The LAC Board told Jeremy they wanted David to play.
"He was supposed to be dressed for the game," Kaschak said. "He was supposed to play. That was a decision from the family, what the father told me. We didn't agree with that. That was a decision he had to make.
"The board did recommend we wanted him to play. He earned that right."
After the LaBrae team lost to the Newton Falls team Monday, Stephens went up to David, took him out to the field for his runner-up trophy and was put him in line with the rest of his team.
Some of his teammates gave David hi-fives after getting his trophy.
Then, Jeremy said the LaBrae coaches insisted David come to Dairy Queen with the team.
"There's a lot more taught at this age of baseball than just playing to win," Hufford said. "I think these kids take a lot of life lessons from this, how to play as a teammate, good teamwork and how to lose. There's a lot of things carried through life that start at this point."