, Gloucester, MA

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March 21, 2013

Nothing 'super' about MIAA's game plan

The old adage tells us that, if it’s not broken, don’t fix it. And there’s absolutely nothing broken about the Massachusetts high school baseball tournament, where the need for more than one or even two good pitchers and other lineup changes regularly produces upsets and, well, a lot of excitement and fun.

Yet the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association — the big-bucks nonprofit corporation that runs our high school tournaments and regularly gets its kicks denying eligibility and opportunities to student-athletes and teams — cannot, as usual, leave well enough alone. Following the model that’s created a special elite class of high school hockey teams, the MIAA has gotten schools’ approval for a “Super 8” baseball division and is starting a two-year trial in 2014. In doing so, it has — as correspondent Conor Walsh noted in Tuesday’s Times Sports section — essentially ensured that no truly magical Cinderella tournament run such as the one that took Gloucester to the 2009 state Final Four may ever happen again.

A Super 8 hockey tournament has a context; year in, year out, many of the same schools — mostly Catholic schools who can recruit across district lines, such as St. John’s Prep — have built programs a notch above other schools that can’t compete on that level. But in baseball, the dependence of games upon who pitches offers a wider range of schools a chance. And leaving those schools to battle for the honor of being supposedly the ninth-best team in the state doesn’t cut it.

By setting up a double-elimination Super 8 division, the MIAA has found a way to run far more tournament games; that means more money for elite schools and the MIAA cronies — just what high school sports are not supposed to be about.

Let’s hope smarter heads prevail among the state’s schools, and that this absurd move can be overturned. And if not, let’s be certain this two-year trial is two and done.

Once again, the MIAA has found a way to “fix” something by denying the vast majority of kids the chance to compete for a true state championship. That’s par for the course, but doesn’t make it acceptable.

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