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Little League To Harlem Team: Play Ball!

The Harlem Little League team will be allowed to play in the Little League World Series after it provided documentation that its players passed requirements, tournament officials said Thursday.

Little League officials said that while the leadership of the New York City team did not submit proper documents before the start of the regular season, it has since provided paperwork refuting allegations that the team was ineligible because some players didn't live within the league's boundaries.

"These kids weren't recruited from anywhere. They weren't brought in from another district or league. They're homegrown," said Stephen Keener, Little League's president and chief executive officer.

Last summer's Little League World Series was dogged by scandal when Bronx, N.Y., pitcher Danny Almonte was discovered to be too old to play. Almonte's team was forced to forfeit its third-place finish after officials determined he was 14 instead of 12.

Keener discounted any comparison between Harlem Little League and Almonte's Rolando Paulino team.

"Harlem did not attempt to cheat to get here. Rolando Paulino did," he said.

This year's World Series is set to open Friday, with Harlem playing its first game Saturday. Harlem advanced by winning the Mid-Atlantic Regional.

A protest lodged earlier Thursday by the Lehigh Little League of Bethlehem, Pa., which lost to Harlem team in Tuesday's regional championship, has been denied, the league said.

Morris McWilliams, manager of Harlem Little League, said he had "no feeling of bitterness at all" about the investigation.

"Little League did what they had to do," he said. "We provided them with the documentation, and they made their decision. We're ready to play ball."

Jack Lule of Bethlehem, whose son, John, plays second base on Lehigh Little League, said players would accept the decision, but criticized the league for failing to resolve the issue earlier in the season.

The Little League World Series opens Friday. The Harlem team, which won the Mid-Atlantic Regional, plays its first series game Saturday against a team from Clemmons, N.C.

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