Chuck Williams: Bad decisions lead to tough consequences for Phillips, Carter

chwilliams@ledger-enquirer.comApril 22, 2013 

This isn't the way it was supposed to be.

Not even close.

J.T. Phillips and Kyle Carter have been big news here since they were 12 years old. They have won championships -- the Little League World Series and three high school state titles.

A year ago, there was speculation about which Major League clubs would draft the two hometown heroes.

Today, Carter and Phillips have made news for all the wrong reasons. The photos people now see are police booking mugs, not baseball celebrations.

After not being picked high enough by Major League clubs, Carter and Phillips headed to Athens to help resurrect University of Georgia baseball.

Where the two have gone, championships have followed.

But Carter didn't make it through the fall semester at Georgia without being arrested -- twice. In August he was arrested on felony charges of possession of a weapon in a school zone after he allegedly threatened a woman with a baseball bat in a dorm room. In November, Carter was arrested for underage possession of alcohol and public intoxication.

Facing a suspension from the team, Carter withdrew from Georgia and is playing at Miami Dade College.

Phillips was arrested for DUI and other charges Saturday morning, hours after the Bulldogs home game with Vanderbilt was rained out.

Not even one season into a three-season commitment, both are gone.

Randy Morris, the Little League manager who coached the 2006 championship team that featured Phillips and Carter, is disheartened by the news. Morris, a father of daughters ages 24 and 18, is aware of the temptations that young people face.

"I am telling you they are good guys," Morris said. "But it is all about decisions. They made poor decisions. Sometimes, kids think they are invincible and just don't worry about the consequences of their actions."

He puts it another way.

"They don't see the bigger picture," Morris said. "There is no doubt in my mind that both of them have regrets."

Columbus High Coach Bobby Howard, who won three of his 12 state titles with Phillips and Carter in the lineup, has addressed the situation with his players.

"I told our players you better learn from it," Howard said. "You would hope that everybody can become stronger and smarter from it."

The fall from grace for both Carter and Phillips is a topic of discussion at Northern Little League, the program that launched the two into a premature stardom. Morris is coaching an A-ball team this season and some of his players have asked him about Carter and Phillips.

"All of the Little League players worship these guys," Morris said. "It is bad for these guys to see those guys get into trouble."

Howard said he does not condone their actions, but it does not alter the way he feels about Carter and

Phillips.

"Our love for J.T. and Kyle is unconditional," Howard said. "I am going to love them whether they win the Nobel Peace Prize, the MVP or go to jail. They both made bad decisions. And they know it."

After Georgia was swept Saturday by Vanderbilt, Bulldogs Coach David Perno pulled no punches in his postgame comments, confirming Phillips had been dismissed from the team.

"Just the thought that the night before the biggest doubleheader of the season and he puts himself in a situation like that," Perno said. "He doesn't care about this team or this program."

That has to sting in a mighty way. Howard said he was reaching out to Perno but had not yet talked to him.

"I hate it for J.T.," Perno concluded. "But he made it too easy."

Strong words from a frustrated coach. Coincidentally, since 2006, Carter and Phillips have made one of the most difficult games to master look way too easy.

Morris knows Perno well. The two struck up a relationship in 2006 when Northern was the best Little League team on the planet. Morris has great respect for Perno and understands his frustration.

"When you make bad decisions it does affect the team," Morris said. "J.T. was going to start at first base, so you got to assume he was the best first baseman he had. What happened was bad publicity for the team, bad publicity for the school."

It has been a bad deal all the way around.

Chuck Williams, senior editor for content, chwilliams@ledger-enquirer.com.

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