As baseball coach at Amphitheater High in Tucson, Danny Hernandez each year welcomed one or two Mexican players who hoped to learn English and attract the attention of major league scouts. Using these players was allowed as long as they lived with a parent or guardian in the school district. But when their count on the roster swelled to nine tins year, someone tipped off the school district that all might not be aboveboard.
An investigation by the district found that several players were living in an apartment without guardians and that others were living with guardians outside the district. That led to the nine players' being kicked off the team. Also, Hernandez had let his teaching certificate lapse, a violation that forced the school to forfeit 21 games, turning a 20-7 season into a 4-23 debacle. Hernandez, who resigned recently and could not be reached for comment, has denied that he recruited the boys, which would have been a violation of state rules. But he was clearly facilitating the players' stays in Tucson, as several of them lived with members of his family during the school year.
Some Amphitheater parents wondered why Hernandez gave Mexican kids an opportunity to play at the expense of American kids, particularly since his teams were good but not dominant. "As an American, I was uncomfortable with the situation," says Ron Dominguez, a volunteer assistant for the Panthers this year, "and I can certainly understand parents' having problems with it."
The Arizona Interscholastic Association has placed Amphitheater on probation for one year. Meanwhile, Phil Evans, a parent of an Amphi player, shook his head at the mess. "[District rival] Canyon del Oro won the state championship the right way," says Evans. "Why couldn't we?"