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Little League Player Who Was Caught Lying About His Age Finally Breaks Silence

ESPN / YOUTUBE

In the summer of 2001, Danny Almonte was a star of Little League World Series, a showcase for young baseball players age 12 and under. Almonte’s pitching was out of this world: he struck out an impressive 62 of 72 batters and threw a perfect game. But there was one major problem: Almonte was actually 14 years old, two years above the limit. Before anyone knew he was an overage player, Almonte was becoming a household name. When news broke about Almonte’s real age, the scandal nearly disgraced everyone around him. But what role did Almonte have in it? Was he aware of the deception or was he just a puppet in something larger? Years later, many questions remain.

In an ESPN “30 For 30” short, Danny Almonte opens up about this strange period in Little League history.

ESPN / YOUTUBE

Before his falsified age became front page news, Almonte was becoming a national superstar, especially among fans in the New York borough of the Bronx, which he represented as part of the Baby Bronx Bombers. But Almonte wasn’t really from the Bronx. Before the Little League World series tourney, he spent most of his life in the Dominican Republic.

Once the news broke, however, Amonte’s personal life became a living hell. Some say he ruined the sanctity of Little League, likening Almonte’s scandal to steroid use in the pros. As Almonte explains, in the aftermath, he wished he could go back to the Dominican Republic, back to his mom, away from the 24/7 media coverage. Because English wasn’t his first language, he was unable to defend himself, and so he relied on the adults around him, his father and uncle, the same adults who might have might have played a role in altering his birth certificate in the first place. But Almonte also knew something else: his real age.

So why would someone change his age to 12 years old? And why would Almonte go along with it?

ESPN / YOUTUBE

As ESPN speculated in 2001, reducing Almonte’s age was likely done to attract the attention of scouts, who would be particularly impressed pitching abilities, which were well above average for a 12-year-old. Baseball can provide wealth and opportunity for poor families living in the Dominican Republic, so it’s not uncommon for parents to fudge their child’s birth certificates. It’s also not very difficult, as, according to ESPN at that time, as many as 25 percent of children didn’t even have a valid birth certificate. So if a parent told you that you were 12, you assumed you were 12. As Almonte told ESPN, even though he knew his age, he kept quiet because his father told him to: “The way I was raised, if my dad says something, you gotta do it.”

As ESPN pointed out, Danny Almonte’s age was likely altered so that he, and his family, might have a chance at living the American dream. But in the end, Almonte’s life became a nightmare from which he has, in time, learned to live with. And he’s learned that life is more than baseball.

READ: She Might Be A Tiny Tot But She Is Making Big Moves In The Soccer World

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These Long-Time Best Friends Just Found Out They’re Biological Sisters

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These Long-Time Best Friends Just Found Out They’re Biological Sisters

Photo via Cassandra Raquel Madison/Facebook

We’ve all had those friends that are so close to us that they feel like they’re family. Well, in the case of these of two Connecticut women who had the same feeling, that ended up being the case.

Best friends Julia Tinetti and Cassandra Madison learned that they were biological sisters, adopted from the Dominican Republic.

The story is stranger than fiction. Julia and Madison met in 2013, when they both worked at a bar called The Russian Lady in New Haven, Connecticut. The women immediately bonded when they discovered that they both had tattoos of the Dominican Republic’s flag.

Cassandra rehashed the meeting via a Facebook post: “Julia notices the Dominican flag on my arm and makes a comment about how she’s Dominican too BUT she’s adopted from there. I stop her in her tracks and tell her I’m adopted from there too.”

“After that moment, we were so tight,” Julia told Good Morning America. “We started hanging out. We would go out for drinks, for dinner. We started dressing alike.”

Apparently, Cassandra felt the same way. “I thought she was cool,” Cassandra said to GMA. “We just kind of hit it off right away. It was very natural.”

According to them, coworkers were always telling them that they looked like sisters. But when the two of them cross-referenced their birth certificate, their information didn’t add up.

“Papers said we were from two different cities [with] different last names,” Julia explained. “And, our mothers’ names on our paperwork were different.” But the two women believed they were somehow connected–they just didn’t know how.

The mystery finally began to unravel after Cassandra took a 23andMe DNA test.

Through 23andMe’s genetic database, Cassandra tracked down her biological family in the Dominican Republic through a first cousin. She then traveled to the DR where she met her bio-family for the first time–an incredibly emotionally experience. While Cassandra’s bio-father was still alive, her bio-mother had passed away in 2015 from a heart attack.

Years later, Cassandra finally pressed her bio-father on whether or not he had put up another child for adoption. While at first he was hesitant to talk about the painful memory, he finally admitted that he had, indeed, put another child up for adoption years ago.

It was then that Cassandra finally urged Julia to take a DNA test so they could finally put their questions to rest.

The results came back on January 28th, 2021 and finally confirmed what they had long suspected: they were biological sisters.

The entire ordeal has been both thrilling, joyful, and emotionally taxing for the women. At times, it has even been bittersweet, considering the trauma their biological family endured in the past.

“On top of the DR being a very poor country, [our family] couldn’t take care of us,” Julia explained. “I was [born] 17 months later and they weren’t ready.”

All in all, Julia summed up how she feels about the situation in a very direct way: “This is the type of thing you see on TV.”

We couldn’t agree more!

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The Dominican Republic Finally Outlaws Child Marriage After Years of Campaigning by Girls’ Rights Activists

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The Dominican Republic Finally Outlaws Child Marriage After Years of Campaigning by Girls’ Rights Activists

Image via Getty

Outside of the U.S., some good news has occurred amidst a week that has otherwise been full of mayhem and chaos.

On Wednesday, the Dominican Republic’s Executive Branch approved a law that unilaterally bans child marriage in its country.

In the past, children younger than 18 were allowed to marry with a special exemption from a judge. These exemptions happened often. Now, no woman or man under the age of 18 are allowed to marry under any circumstances in the Dominican Republic.

This move is significant because the Dominican Republic has the highest rates of child marriage in Latin America and the Caribbean. Official government figures show that 36% of Dominican girls and adolescents marry or enter into “unions” before the age of 18. In 12% of these relationships, the female partner was less than 15 years old.

More informal “unions” where a girl simply moves into an older man’s household are also common in the DR. These are very common in higher poverty communities where many girls are considered a financial burden on their families. Unions like these will be harder to penalize because there is no formal documentation of their partnership.

There are multiple factors that play into the Dominican Republic’s high child marriage rate.

One of the main factors is the culture of machismo that informs the way that young men and women approach relationships.

According to research conducted by Plan International, 81% of Dominican girls said they preferred men that were five years older than them. This statistic is in stark contrest to 39% of Dominican men who prefer their partners 18 or younger because they found them more “obedient” and “adaptable”.

Not only that, but there is also a strong cultural expectation for girls and women to become mothers and wives. These cultural beliefs have simply stoked the practice of child marriage.

“Child marriage and early unions are seen as normal in society. It is driven by machismo that sees the role of a woman to be just a mother and wife,” said Rosa Elcarte, UNICEF’s representative in the Dominican Republic, to the Thomson Reuters Foundation. “Ending early unions will require years of work to change cultural norms.”

Feminists and human rights activists consider this law a win after many years campaigning to put an end to this practice.

But on a bittersweet note, many advocates realize that one law doesn’t dismantle the patriarchal structure of their culture that enabled this practice for so long. There is still a lot of work to be done.

“Our girls and adolescents will be protected … and cannot be forced into marriage in their childhood or adolescence, which in the past was often carried out by parents and legally allowed,” said Sonia Hernandez, an associate director of the International Justice Mission, in a statement to NBC News.

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