MARION — Parents and coaches are sounding the alarm about a competitive youth baseball tournament organizer in Southern Illinois.
Several area coaches say that David Scheible-Hall, of Carbondale, and associated business entities, owe their teams thousands of dollars collectively for tournaments that have been rained out, canceled or that the teams pulled out of over growing concerns about his business dealings.
After several broken promises that reimbursement checks had been sent, at least one coach has filed a report with his local police department in Herrin, and others have taken their complaints to the Better Business Bureau.
In a nearly 30-minute interview with The Southern on Tuesday, Scheible-Hall defended himself and his business, and denied any wrongdoing. Scheible-Hall said that he’s already reimbursed most of the teams and parents to which he owes money, and said he is making arrangements to refund others in short order. Indeed, some people say that Scheible-Hall has made good on the money owed to them and their teams, even if it took a while.
But others are still waiting, and losing hope that they’ll ever receive their money back. And some who had received messages this week from PayPal informing them of pending refunds found out Thursday that the process didn't complete.
“He stole from my boys. That’s what he did. He stole their money,” said Chad Burnett, of Paducah, who coaches the West Kentucky Legends’ boys baseball team for youth age 10 and under.
Burnett said Scheible-Hall owes him $835 for four tournaments that his boys did not play this summer in Southern Illinois. The team was able to come up with funds to schedule other replacement tournaments, but will start next year with little in the bank. “He’s put us in a bind really bad,” he said. Burnett said Scheible-Hall told him Sunday that he had placed a check in the mail Saturday for the amount he’s owed. As of Thursday afternoon, Burnett said he had not received it.
J.B. Downey, a coach of the Southern Illinois Dirt Dawgs, out of Whittington, said his team is owed $650 for one tournament that was canceled after one game due to rain, and one tournament that the team decided to withdraw from.
Zach Cartright, the coach for the SC (South Central) Storm Chasers’ 10-year-olds, based in Kinmundy, said his team, as of Wednesday, had been owed $955 for three unplayed tournaments. Cartright said that a team bank account was refunded $542 on Wednesday. He said the team is still owed $413, and he doesn’t know why Scheible-Hall made the partial payment in the amount he did.
Jeff Carrico, the coach for Southern Illinois Dingers, based in Marion, said his team is owed $995 for three unplayed tournaments. He said Scheible-Hall wrote the president of his organization a $340 check earlier this year for a tournament rainout, but the bank would not let them deposit the funds, stating that the account tied to the check had been frozen.
Carrico said he emailed Scheible-Hall on June 19, asking him to meet up and hand-deliver the check owed to his team. “I don’t have your check with me it’s been sent out !" Scheible-Hall responded to him via email, a copy of which Carrico provided to The Southern. Carrico said neither he nor anyone associated with his team has received that check in the mail in the three weeks since.
In most cases, players on the traveling teams, and their parents, host a variety of fundraisers — such as car washes, bake sales and raffles — to earn money to enter tournaments throughout the region and in other states. Businesses also help sponsor teams.
Beyond funds coaches say their teams have lost for unplayed tournaments, numerous players’ parents expressed concern about an all-star game that Scheible-Hall organized for earlier this week at Rent One Park in Marion.
The players asked to participate in the all-star game were chosen from opposing teams’ coaches after tournaments organized by Scheible-Hall. The chosen players and their parents were informed they needed to pay $100 immediately if they wanted to participate to cover the cost of a new uniform and admission.
Christine Kinch said that she was already driving her 13-year-old son home from a tournament in Marion to their home in Clarksville, Tennessee, on a Sunday evening in early May when she received a text from one of the coaches that he had been chosen. She has a hands-free device in her car that reads text messages aloud over a speaker. So her son got the news at the same time she did. “He’s like, ‘This is so awesome! How cool is this!’ He googled the field that the coach mentioned in the text and said, ‘Mommy, this is a minor league field!’
The coach, who had not yet left Marion, offered to front the $100 fee for her son and his friend, who was also chosen, and then the parents paid him back.
Kinch said her son talked about the upcoming all-star tournament the rest of the summer. But as the weeks passed, several unusual things happened. First, Kinch and other parents say they received a text message in late May from Scheible-Hall informing them that he was no longer associated with Game 7 Baseball, which organizes tournaments in the Midwest.
The other youth tournaments organized by Scheible-Hall had all been organized under the Game 7 Illinois name. And parents said that they had no qualms about paying the fee for the all-star game, because Game 7 is a well-known and reputable company that also organizes games in Tennessee, Ohio and Missouri.
But Scheible-Hall assured them he still intended to organize the all-star game through a new company. Kinch said she received a message in June letting her know that it was still a go, and that uniforms had been ordered. But the uniforms never arrived for any of the players. Some parents said that in the days leading up to it, they weren’t sure if the tournament was going to happen at all.
On Monday, the first day of the tournament, Scheible-Hall sent a text message to some parents and coaches, letting them know that there had been a snafu with the uniforms, but that game day was on. It read: “Good morning coaches and parents ! I just received a email from Lee sports where the uniforms were ordered ! They were supposed to be done last Wednesdah and then Friday ! They then told me that it wouldn't be done but it would be ready Monday and they would be delivered to the ball park by 8 ! Unfortunately I got a email last night and didn’t see it and said that there was a issue with a couple uniforms and it would be the middle of this week ! …”
He instructed the players to wear their regular team uniforms instead, and promised to deliver them their uniforms when they arrived. But parents started to get suspicious about the funds they’d paid. Many were angry, as their children had no use for an all-star uniform after the tournament was over, and he didn't originally offer a refund. Then when they arrived at Rent One Park that morning, attendees said they were asked to pay what they described as an unexpected $20 per-vehicle parking fee.
Valerie Bethel, of Marion, whose son was selected to play in the tournament, said she placed a call to Lee’s Sports in Nashville — the only sports uniform supply business she knows of in the region with that name. A company representative told her that Lee’s Sports had never received any orders from Scheible-Hall or anyone else affiliated with this week’s all-star game. Bethel said she started to worry he intended to scam families out of more money by creating the all-star game, and charging $100 a player. “Travel ball parents, everybody knows that we do whatever it takes. So he knew we would all do it.”
Bethel said she confronted Scheible-Hall about her concerns, and that he said she would be refunded her money. She also said that he agreed to drop parking fees for the afternoon games. Bethel said she received a message from PayPal on Monday that she had received her money back. But on Thursday morning, she had another message from PayPal waiting for her, saying the refund "didn't complete." Bethel said there are others who received the same message as well.
Scheible-Hall said Tuesday that all families will be refunded, and that most already had. He said that he believed charging $20 for a car was a reasonable parking fee, and not out of line for competitive youth tournaments, especially an all-star game. He said that parents acted unreasonably toward him Monday. The Southern also tried to reach Scheible-Hall on Wednesday and Thursday, to ask him about additional specific claims made against him about monies allegedly owed, but he did not return a phone call or text message.
“The thing with these people around here that I’ve noticed — as I’m not originally from here — is they don’t think they should have to pay for anything,” he told The Southern in an interview on Tuesday. “They think that everything should be given to them, and that somebody owes them something. And they don’t. And maybe that’s just Southern Illinois.”
While many people say they’ve been refunded, Downey, the Dirt Dawgs coach, said he's still out $27 from the all-star game. Downey said he paid $200 to enter two players into the all-star tournament, his son and another member of his team who wasn’t able to pay it right away as Scheible-Hall required. He says that Scheible-Hall also contacted him later, and told him he’d received the honor of being nominated to coach at the tournament — for a cost of $75. He paid that, too. Downey said his son and teammate didn’t get to play at all Tuesday, and that he’s yet to receive a refund. Downey said he also nominated two players from opposing teams, and is frustrated that children have been caught up in this mess. “I feel like I got their hopes up based on a lie I had no clue about."
Scheible-Hall said he’s the one who has been treated unfairly. With the reimbursements, the younger boys were able to play a game on a minor league field for free on Monday, he said. Scheible-Hall said he is out thousands of dollars for the tournament, though declined to give a specific dollar amount. “They think I’m selfish,” he said. “I feel like when somebody says ‘Hey, we’re holding this all-star game, there’s going to be an entry fee, there’s going to be a gate fee.’ And when you show up and throw a fit and say, ‘Hey, this isn’t right that you’re charging this,’ I think that’s being a little selfish because if you go to a Miners' game or you go somewhere else, then you have to pay to get in. You’re charged to park.”
Parking for Miners’ games at Rend One Park in Marion costs between $2 and $3.
During the 30-minute interview with The Southern, Scheible-Hall did not apologize to parents for the mix-up with the uniforms, or directly address their concerns about the tournament. Of the money that various coaches say their teams are still owned, Scheible-Hall said he’s in the process of paying them all the money back that they're owed. He declined to answer a question about which company he placed the order to for the all-star game uniforms. In the text to parents, he said it was Lee’s Sports, and blamed the company for the delay.
The longtime owner of Lee’s Sports in Nashville, Illinois, Mike Borowiak, said he has received at least a dozen calls from concerned parents asking about the status of their children’s uniforms. But Borowiak said he’s never received such an order. “I don’t even know this guy.” Borowiak said he’s attempted to reach Scheible-Hall to discuss the matter, and asked him in a message to clear up the confusion with parents if he’s referring to another company. Borowiak said he knows of no other companies by the same or similar names in this region. He said he never heard back from Scheible-Hall. “I hope the good Lord helps this gentleman,” he said.
In an emailed statement, Rent One Park General Manager Cathy Perry told The Southern that the Southern Illinois Miners were not involved in organizing the event. “The venue was rented to the organizer of the tournament,” she said. “We too have had challenges with this and will not be doing this again.”
Dave Schmidt, the owner of Game 7 Baseball, said Tuesday that Scheible-Hall is not an employee of his company, and never has been. He declined further comment, but said he would pass a reporter’s contact details to his attorney. The Southern did not receive a return call from the company’s attorney. On Game 7 Baseball’s website, events are listed under four states, including Illinois. As of Tuesday afternoon, the Illinois tab did not list any events, and directed people to contact Scheible-Hall directly concerning refund questions.
After a reporter contacted the company, Scheible-Hall’s name was erased from the site completely.
Scheible-Hall told The Southern that he’s now organizing games under a new business, DF Sports Inc. He said that it’s the company, not him, that enters into contracts with players and teams.
“This is a business, and it’s not me. So when some people want to reach out to you, or reach out to somebody else, this is a business,” he said. “It has nothing to do with me taking money. They paid money to a business, a business account, an LLC, it has nothing to do with me. So maybe you might want to put, instead of putting my name in there, you might want to put the business name in there. Because it’s a contract with them and the business.”
Asked what his title is with DF Sports, he said, “I prefer not to say.” Parents and coaches said that Scheible-Hall is the only person they’ve dealt with associated with the entity. They are aware of no other employees. According to the Illinois Secretary of State’s Office, he’s the company’s principal agent.
Tournament games were played Monday at Rent One Park, but then canceled for Tuesday. About a dozen players showed up Tuesday, in uniform, hoping to play, but Scheible-Hall did not make an appearance. Sitting in the car in his parking lot, he told a ballpark employee who knocked on his window to tell him the players were waiting for him that he would be in shortly. But after rolling up his window, he drove away instead.
Kinch, the Tennessee parent, said that despite her concerns, she was planning to drive her son to Marion on Tuesday for his game scheduled for that afternoon. But she received a text from Scheible-Hall Monday evening telling her and other parents that Day 2 was off — because he had been unfairly accosted by numerous parents on Monday, and wasn’t going to put up with that type of behavior. In the text message, Scheible-Hall described the parents as "out of control," Kinch said.
Kinch said it was hard to break the news to her son. He didn't make his middle school baseball team, but had worked hard to improve and was ecstatic to have been selected.
"He was really sad. He couldn't understand how this could happen," she said.