Barnegat High School pitcher Jason Groome — the potential No. 1 pick in this June’s First Year Major League Player Draft — is ineligible.
The senior will probably miss just two starts. The Barnegat School District released a statement Thursday confirming the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association ruled Groome ineligible because he violated the rule that requires athletes who transfer without a bonafide change of residence to sit the first 30 days of the season or half of the team’s total number of games for the season.
The NJSIAA defines a bonafide change of residence as a student moving with his parent/guardian from one public school district to another.
Groome will be eligible for Barnegat’s 12th game or May 1 — whichever comes first, according to the NJSIAA. Groome lives in Barnegat and played as a freshman and sophomore for the Bengals. He pitched for IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida, as a junior.
He transferred back to Barnegat for his senior year because he wanted to play with his friends and try to win a state Group II title.
As a result of the ruling, Barnegat will also forfeit the two games it won that Groome pitched in. Groome was extremely impressive in those two starts.
On Monday he struck out 19 of the minimum 21 batters on his way to what would have been the school’s first-ever no-hitter in a 6-0 victory over Central Regional.
In his first start and the team’s season opener on April 5, Groome struck out 10 in four innings in a 2-0 win over Point Pleasant Borough.
“We take no anything — pride, happiness or whatever you want to say — in telling the school, the young man, the parents, the community that he violated our rule,” NJSIAA assistant director Larry White said.
Groome could not be reached for comment, but Jeff Randazzo, Groome’s advisor, said the senior pitcher will deal with the ruling just fine.
“He’s OK,” Randazzo said. “He’s a tough kid. He’s lived in Barnegat his whole life. He left for three months to go to IMG.”
The Barnegat school district released the following statement Thursday:
“The Barnegat Township School District does not feel the rule should apply in an instance when a student athlete returns to his home town, where his parents have residence and are taxpayers. Upon leaving the IMG Academy in Florida, Jason Groome could have chosen to play for any varsity high school baseball program in the United States. He chose Barnegat because his family and friends are here. We stand behind Jay, our team, coaches and administration.
“The district is, however prepared to accept the sanctions imposed by the NJSIAA, as well as voluntarily forfeit the first two wins of our baseball season. Sanctions include that Groome must be deemed ineligible to participate for 30 days or half of the maximum games.
“The school district recognizes our misinterpretation of the NJSIAA residency rule and apologies go out to the team, the players, the coaches, and the families of Barnegat High School baseball as well as our community.”
Barnegat athletic director John Germano politely declined to elaborate on that statement when reached by phone Thursday afternoon.
The NJSIAA released the following statement Thursday afternoon when asked about Groome.
“While NJSIAA will not comment on specific circumstances related to a particular student athlete, the association’s rules clearly state that a student-athlete transferring from one secondary school to another must provide evidence of a bona fide change of residence as defined by NJSIAA rules.
“Otherwise, that student will be deemed ineligible to participate in interscholastic athletic competition for 30 calendar days or half of the maximum number of games allowed in that sport by NJSIAA rules. Further, if it is determined that an ineligible player participated in regular-season games, those games must be forfeited. Neither ruling is open to appeal.”
The Barnegat statement said the NJSIAA had received several inquiries about Groome’s eligibility. White said an NJSIAA assistant director read a newspaper story about Groome that said he had played for IMG last year.
The organization then realized Barnegat had not submitted a transfer form for Groome, who is the top story of the spring high school sports season. The 6-foot-5 left hander throws in the mid-90s. He also features a sharp-breaking curveball.
Groome pitched 11 innings this season, striking out 29 and allowing one hit.
More than 100 Major League scouts have watched Groome pitch this season. Phillies general manager Matt Klentak watched Groome’s first start at Barnegat on April 5. The major league draft is June 9. The Phillies have the No. 1 pick. Groome’s ineligibility should not impact when he is drafted.