On Thursday, the NJSIAA declared Barnegat (N.J.) left-hander Jason Groome ineligible, deeming the No. 1 prospect in the country him to have violated its transfer rules when he returned to Barnagat High School for his senior season from IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla.
Groome’s advisor, Jeff Randazzo, fired back in a statement on Saturday released to Philly.com, calling the NJSIAA’s decision a “disgrace.”
The NJSIAA determined that even though Groome, who many think the Philadelphia Phillies could take with the No. 1 pick in the MLB First-Year Players Draft on June 9, was returning to the school district where his family resides, and where he pitched as a freshman and sophomore, he did not have a bona fide change of address when he returned to Barnegat for the current season.
Consequently, he must sit out 30 days or half the team’s games, whichever comes first.
Groome is expected to be able to return as early April 27, and May 1, at the latest. That would be in time for the NJSIAA and Shore Conference tournaments – should Barnegat qualify for those tournaments – and the Ocean County Tournament, which begins April 30. Barnegat forfeited the two games in which Groome pitched, including last Monday’s 19-strikeout no-hitter against Central. .
A statement by the Barnegat Township School District to the Press of Atlantic City on Thursday indicated it misinterpreted the residency rule.
Here is Randazzo’s entire statement:
“Jason Groome returned to Barnegat to be with his friends and family for his senior year. This has been well-documented publicly since he made his decision to come back home for his senior year. The Groome family took the proper measures by going to the school itself to ensure Jason’s return home would not be problematic. This has been further evidenced by statements made by Barnegat and The Barnegat Township School District.
“Jason and his family fully support rules that exist to protect the integrity of the competition under the high school league to prevent any school or student athlete from gaining an unfair advantage due to a transfer; however, that is not the case here. Jason is a homegrown Barnegat kid, his parents are full-fledged residents and taxpayers. Jason attended Barnegat HS for his Freshman, Sophomore and first half of his Junior Year before leaving for IMG in the Spring. After 4 months at IMG , Jason and his family felt it was important he came back home and finish his senior year with his family and friends at Barnegat. He was not recruited back , he asked to come back
“The NJSIAA has been fully aware of Jason’s return home, yet now arbitrarily and unilaterally decides to impose and enforce the so-called “transfer rule” three weeks into the baseball season? For the NJSIAA to have no avenue of appeal for Jason to show that the facts of his circumstances do not violate spirit or intent of the rule seems to violate the due process one would expect all students to be entitled to exercise.
“We can’t help but question the motives and intent of the people involved executing an agenda to maliciously effect a 17-year-old kid and his teammates. The lack of common sense on the behalf of the NJSIAA is a disgrace!.
“To Jason’s credit, he has accepted the decision. Jason has undergone a crash-course during the past year in handling rumors and jealousy, but he fully understands it comes with the position he is in as a baseball player with a special talent.
“Jason is happy to be home with his family, little twin brothers, and his sisters to experience this very exciting time with his family. He and his family are very appreciative of the support that has poured in on his behalf, and is looking forward to getting back on the mound to pursue his goals of winning a state championship, graduating with his friends, getting drafted and becoming a Major League Baseball player, and one day becoming a Hall of Fame hopeful.”