The President's Cup, an annual Baltimore City high school baseball showcase that has taken place in April at Oriole Park since 2011, has been canceled this year because of violations discovered by the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association.
The event, scheduled for April 15, has been sponsored by the Orioles and City Council President Bernard C. "Jack" Young with the goal of bringing together student-athletes from the city's public and private schools.
Earlier this year, the MPSSAA learned of a format change that goes back to 2014 — when it went from a multi-day elimination tournament with the student-athletes playing for their respective schools to an all-star showcase bringing together top players from various schools — that violated a number of regulations. On March 21, Young wrote Maryland State Superintendent of Schools Dr. Karen B. Salmon requesting a waiver, but Lester Davis, a spokesman for Young, said the office learned Friday it was denied.
A statement issued Friday by Bill Reinhard, director of communications for the Maryland State Department of Education, said the event's current format violated the regulation limiting public school students' participation in all-star games until the students complete their eligibility in the respective sport. It's among a set of participation limits aligned with education-based athletics to minimize student absences from school, loss of instructional time and loss of time from school teams during the season.
In addition, the event provides an opportunity not available to other school systems and students in other sports.
"We're hoping there can be a resolution to it and it doesn't necessarily have to not be played," Reinhard said. "Essentially, the format was changed without the knowledge of the MPSSAA and was no longer in compliance with the state regulations."
After working with the Baltimore City public schools since the change was first made and having the event continue without any problems from 2014 to 2016, Davis said Young was disappointed to learn of the violations. Davis added the event planning was in its final stages with uniforms already ordered and umpires in place. After hearing the waiver was denied, Young's office told the Orioles the event would have to be canceled this year.
"The Maryland State Board of Education is allowing red tape and bureaucratic regulations to negatively impact the children of Baltimore by depriving high school student-athletes a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to play ball at Oriole Park at Camden Yards," Young said in a statement. "I began the President's Cup in 2011 as a way to use the sport of baseball to unite public and private high school students from diverse socioeconomic backgrounds.
"We revamped the format in 2014 with an eye toward developing greater bonds between high school players. But today's decision by the board effectively tells our students that they don't matter. The decision tells them that adults from surrounding counties, whom they've never met, have the power to end their dreams."
Davis said Tiffany Byrd, coordinator of athletics for Baltimore City Public Schools, first informed Young's office of the potential problems in March after an MPSSAA conference that took place in February where the topic of all-star game participation came up.
When reached Friday, Byrd was unaware that the waiver had been denied.
"The President's Cup has been a positive event in the past and I have no details [on the cancellation] because I haven't been briefed, but I'm sure we'll revisit what the issues involved are so we can restructure and reinstate the event," she said.