YouTube video, incident leads to division in Kirkland American Little League community
By CARRIE RODRIGUEZ
Kirkland Reporter Editor
June 20, 2012 · Updated 1:00 PM
KALL President John Rudolph said that the resulting YouTube video, which has more than 1,600 views, is taken out of context. But supporters of the petition say that Rudolph’s negative actions go far beyond the incident.
The video, posted by an unknown spectator, shows Rudolph losing his temper with a private coach, who is sitting in the stands at Everest Park. Rudolph is seen calmly talking to the coach and asking him to leave. But the coach ignores Rudolph and about nine seconds into the video the KALL president explodes, yelling at the man to leave. The coach’s wife then gets in Rudolph’s face for yelling at her husband. The couple eventually leaves without further incident.
“That video doesn’t even start until well after that incident began,” said Rudolph.
The incident occurred during a little league playoff game on June 8. The private coach was allegedly coaching the players from the stands, talking with them through the fence and interrupting the game, according to the umpire’s incident report.
Umpires had to warn the coach several times to not coach from the stands and threatened to eject the coach, the report continues. The coach allegedly reacted by telling Rudolph to call his lawyer, said Rudolph. It is against KALL rules for any spectator to coach from the stands. But the coach persisted and KALL umpiring chief and 20-year veteran Ron Kelly called Rudolph down to the park to handle the situation.
“I was in the middle of dinner with my family,” said Rudolph. “The video doesn’t show that we had to clear the field to take care of this issue and starts about 10 to 12 minutes into this.”
Kelly declined to comment on the incident and petition, only to say that the KALL Board was investigating the matter.
Rudolph said the private coach was warned several times during the past two years to not coach from the stands. “I don’t think he is a bad person,” said Rudolph. “He just doesn’t follow the rules.”
Rudolph said he also coaches football and his aggressive side got the best of him. “I had to ask him two or three times and threaten to call the police,” said Rudolph. “As bad as it makes me look, we can’t have people interrupting games.”
Rudolph said that the man does work with the coach of one of the teams outside of KALL in a private coaching business and many of the players on the team use the coaches outside of KALL events. The coach did not return the Reporter’s request for comment.
Rudolph said he sent a letter of apology to both teams for his outburst and only received a response from the team not affiliated with the private coach.
Following an internal investigation that KALL conducted, the 26-member board unanimously decided through an anonymous survey to support Rudolph.
“We have conducted an independent, anonymous survey of all board members seeking whether they support Rudolph as president,” said Seth Andersson, vice president of operations for KALL who led the three-person committee that conducted the investigation. “We had 100 percent responses from board members who said yes.”
Andersson said the committee also did some informal interviews, looked at the umpires’ incident report and came up with a set of recommendations for KALL if an incident like this should happen again.
Some of those suggestions include that if a field has to be cleared for any reason during a game, that the umpire will let all spectators know the reason why. Also, if a spectator refuses to leave after a team manager and board member asks the person to leave, local authorities will be contacted.
The investigation also noted that Rudolph should not have raised his voice during the incident.
For many, it is not the incident, but how Rudolph responded in yelling at the private coach.
Former KALL Board member Steve Wilkes, who was not at the park to witness the incident but watched the video, said he feels “strongly that John didn’t have the right to throw someone out of a public park. I think anybody in that position must maintain their composure.”
He added that Rudolph shouldn’t have handled the situation in the manner he did. “You don’t want kids to emulate that behavior.”
Because of the video, many in the community have anonymously voiced their concerns about Rudolph – which they say goes beyond the recent park incident – and have started an online petition to have him removed from the KALL Board. That petition has reached more than 60 signatures, all signed as “anonymous.”
But Rudolph’s supporters have also launched a second online petition showing their support for the president. That petition has garnered 80 signatures of supporters, most of whom have identified themselves.
Changing the face of KALL
Rudolph became KALL president in late 2009, on the heels of an incident involving a KALL mom who was charged with assault for pushing a player from another team during an argument. The incident received national attention.
Rudolph told the Reporter in a December 2009 story that the 1,400-member league hoped to distance itself away from such incidents.
“We want to promote life skills, having fun and parent interaction,” he said. “We don’t want things like that to happen again. Little League is about having fun and a great experience.”
However, the petition against Rudolph states that he should be removed for “behavior unbecoming of a league officer, lack of properly executing the duties of president and to prevent any further degradation of our league.” It lists 17 issues with Rudolph, including favoritism, concerns about the use of league finances and the breaking of many KALL rules, among other things.
Rudolph said that all the accusations in the petition are “100 percent untrue.”
Petitioners against the president have even gone to the extent of sending emails to City of Kirkland staff and council members. Rudolph said that he has received a call from the league’s national office to discuss the matter. But the only body that can remove Rudolph is the KALL Board.
“I went to them and told them I would step down,” said Rudolph. “I am trying to take the high road here. But they said that they are 100 percent behind me … I am a big boy and a big target and I can take it. But my family does not need this. This stuff happens when people get upset because their kid doesn’t make a team.”
Along with the 80 supporters who signed the petition, Rudolph also has other backers. Kirkland resident Jack Showater, who has known Rudolph for 20 years, says Rudolph coached his kids in various sports. Though he wasn’t at Everest Park during the incident, he watched the video.
“I think John lost his temper and it was a 60-second glimpse into a guy who’s donated the last 8 to 10 years of his life to Kirkland sports and kids,” said Showater, who signed the petition supporting Rudolph. “I’ve seen John in lots of situations and I’ve never seen him loose his cool – ever.”
He also urges the community to consider the source of the petition against Rudolph.
“It’s easy to anonymously post a petition and anonymously post ‘yes,’” he said. “I’d be much more influenced by something that people put their names on.
KALL Board member Tom Roe said he posted the online petition in support of Rudolph after someone removed his post in support of the president on the other petition’s website.
“I just felt at that point that they weren’t playing fair,” said Roe. “I put the petition up so if people wanted to say something nice, they’d have an opportunity to do that.”
Of the incident at Everest, Roe says that “John could have handled it better; he could have handled it worse. He wasn’t the one who was the offending party. In one minute what people are seeing is kind of a witch hunt against John.”
But those who signed the petition against Rudolph claim he has used his power as president for his and his friends’ personal gain within the organization. They claim that he has shown favoritism towards friends for coaching positions and used his power to hold those back for with whom he has had issues.
Wilkes said many of those who signed the petition against Rudolph have chosen not to speak out on the issue because they fear retaliation.
“John not only has a big bark, but teeth to go with it,” said Wilkes, who has taken the matter to the Little League’s district and regional office.
“I’ve been friends with John, but at the same time, nobody wants to stand up to this guy.”
The group says that Rudolph has a “win at all cost” attitude toward life and his position as president, which is not in line with KALL values, according to petitioners.
One of the most serious charges in the petition is Rudolph’s use of KALL funds. KALL’s annual budget of approximately $60,000 is earmarked mainly for equipment and to fund the all-stars in the summer, said Wilkes.
The petition against Rudolph states that the creation of an Executive Committee to expedite decision making resulted in an abuse of power and they seek an investigation into KALL finances.
One of the allegations surrounds a donation to Lakeview Elementary PTSA in what they call a violation of Little League policies. The donation took place while Rudolph was also the Lakeview PTSA’s president. But the Executive Committee gave Rudolph control of spending up to $1,000. Rudolph said that the donation was for $250 and he also gave two dozen baseballs for an auction.
“They were doing a fund raiser for a teacher who had passed away,” said Rudolph. “This is all just unfortunate mudslinging.”
Rudolph said that the donation was also to show appreciation for being able to use Lakeview Elementary for KALL meetings.
Wilkes and others claim that Rudolph has used KALL funds to purchase previously unneeded food and snacks for board meetings during the past three years, including a spaghetti feed.
During the spaghetti feed, “KALL clearly picked up (the members’) tab,” said Wilkes, adding that it bothered him and other members in principal.
Petitioners also want the investigation to look into whether a personal tab at the Everest Snack Shack has been paid by Rudolph or out of KALL funds.
“Many of us have asked for an audit to be done of KALL funds just for oversight,” said Wilkes. “John never agreed to an audit and no board member has ever demanded one.”
One of the issues listed on the petition includes the incident involving the KALL mom who was charged with assault.
But Rudolph said that he has received more than 200 emails of support from parents.
The KALL season ended with a city championship game against the Kirkland National Little League on Friday.
Reporter Matt Phelps contributed to this report.Contact Kirkland Reporter Editor Carrie Rodriguez at firstname.lastname@example.org or 1-425-822-9166 (ext 5050).