Trouble for Valentine over kids’ team
Bobby Valentine dropped the ball, and now teen baseball hopefuls are paying the price.
The newly-minted Red Sox manager loaned his name and reputation to a group called the All-American Athletic Foundation, founded in 2009 by troubled developer Joseph Beninati of Greenwich, Conn.
Letters signed by Valentine solicited teen players to try out for the "Bobby Valentine All-American" national team and gain exposure to college coaches and major-league scouts.
Parents paid $475 for the tryouts and another $6,300 if their kid made the team, which traveled the country in the summers of 2010 and 2011.
Many parents were told the foundation was a nonprofit and they could easily solicit donations to pay the hefty fees.
Despite holding tryouts again last fall for a 2012 team, the foundation went silent in November.
Parents’ demands for answers, and refunds, went unanswered. Valentine’s name, and his video endorsement, disappeared from the foundation’s website two weeks ago.
When confronted, Valentine said he learned of parent complaints only two weeks ago because Beninati handled the foundation’s affairs and he was merely a volunteer. He did not call Beninati until Thursday, when the New York Post started asking questions about the group.
"This isn’t a priority for me," he fumed from Florida, where his team is in spring training. "In case you haven’t noticed, I have other things to do."
When Valentine, who has a multimillion-dollar, two-year contract with the Red Sox, was asked if he would personally refund money to unhappy tryouts, he snapped, "At the end of the day, what is it? $400? $200? OK."
The national traveling team was usually announced Feb. 14 — but with no word this year, parents began to wonder what was going on.
"Phone calls and emails from parents asking for updates or refunds from canceled tryouts go unanswered," a parent whose son tried out said.
Another parent said she paid $6,300 for her son to join last year’s travel team, but he was forced to drop out because of an injury after just two weeks.
Rather than receive a refund, she said he was supposed to participate in this year’s team.