Of course you want the best for your child. If he shows an interest in music, you buy him an oboe. If she buries her nose in books all day, you drag home a box full of young adult novels each month. If he wants to join the circus as a clown, you ground him for a year.
And if a fast-talking man claiming to be affiliated with the Baltimore Orioles strides into your town with a briefcase full of baseballs and dreams of a baseball academy to nurture your boy’s Major League ambitions for the ridiculously low price of $3,000, you write the check. Okay, maybe you don’t, but 11 sets of loving parents in Cumberland, Rhode Island, did. Bad idea.
THE PROVIDENCE JOURNAL tells the pathetic tale of one Jack A. Ranallo (aka Jack A. Dorvis aka Jack A. Norris), arrested once for pretending to be an Arizona Diamondback in 1999. (Aka Kelly A. Stinnett?) He rounded up 11 families and a few other backers last fall and wove them tales about the Rhode Island Orioles, a club team he intended to start just for their lucky kids.
The team would be partially funded by the Baltimore Orioles since he knew people there from his minor league playing days. (The Orioles organization has no record of him playing minor league ball with them and, in fact, have never heard of him.) They would become a touring team, attending various tournaments in the area and even traveling to Cooperstown for an exhibition.
There were practices in a warehouse in Cumberland but promises of a Field of Dreams Academy under construction. There were scrimmages but no games. In a nod to one of the great fictional cons ever set to music, there were even uniforms. However, the kids had to return the uniforms after each game.
After defrauding each family out of roughly $3,000 and other investors out of $20,000 in defaulted loans, everyone involved rightly suspected the cash wasn’t being spent on anyone not named Ranallo and called the state police. Ranallo was arrested a short time later, leaving those families playing the con game more than the game of baseball.