Anyone who feared that last summer's Little League scandal (SI, Sept. 3, 2001) might do irrevocable harm to the teenager caught in its vortex can rest easy. Ace pitcher Danny Almonte—whose Rolando Paulino All-Stars had to forfeit all of their Little League Tournament games after Almonte was found to be older than the maximum age of 12—is doing fine. Living with Paulino in the Bronx (Danny's parents are in his native Dominican Republic), he's starring in a youth league, and after a year of middle school his English has progressed so much that Almonte says if he doesn't make it to the majors, he'd like to become a lawyer in the U.S.
He certainly has experience in arguing his case. Last year, when he dominated the Little League World Series, Almonte and his father, Felipe, insisted that Danny was only 12. As recently as June, Danny stuck to his story. But last Saturday, after helping his Liga Paulino team go to the finals of the Under-19 Dominican League tournament in New York, the phenom came clean to SI. Almonte, who is 15, said he knew that he was 14 during the controversy but insists that he found out after the tournament had begun. 'What could I do then?" he says. "I was already playing."
This summer, in a league dominated by older teens, Almonte went 2-0 with 21 strikeouts in 12? innings and was to pitch in this week's tide series. He also maintains a level of celebrity. Not long ago he was waiting to get autographs outside Shea Stadium when Astros pitcher Octavio Dotel, a Dominican, saw him and asked for his phone number. Almonte wasn't fazed; during an earlier autograph quest at Shea, Brewers righthander Nelson Figueroa spotted Almonte, went back into the locker room and came out with a ball. "Could you sign this for my sister?" he asked.