WHITEFISH - After striking out in Whitefish, former major leaguer Steve Howe is pitching his case to the state, hoping to return to the diamond as a high school softball coach.

Howe, a star pitcher who was expelled from the big leagues due to drug problems, stepped up to the plate last season as a volunteer coach of his daughter's softball team. Whitefish School Superintendent Dave Peters, however, conducted an informal background check before allowing Howe to take to the diamond, and ultimately balked at hiring the former Yankee pitcher.

Last April, the school board voted not to overturn the superintendent's decision, effectively banning Howe from the field.

Howe, 41, enjoys the support of the local softball association, but without the good graces of the school, he cannot participate in school activities. His daughter, Chelsi, was a sophomore on the team during the past season.

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Howe, a former National League Rookie of the Year and 13-year veteran on major league mounds, saw his career tainted by drug use. He was ultimately suspended several times for violating the league's substance abuse policy.

But now it is the school district's policy that has kept him from returning to the field. According to school board members, district policy calls for background checks on volunteers associated with the school, and if those background checks reveal concerns, the superintendent has the right to deny the volunteer's request.

When Peters exercised that right, Howe appealed to Flathead County Superintendent of Schools Donna Maddux, who refused to hear his case as the request came after the appeal deadline. Earlier this month, Howe took his case to the Montana Office of Public Instruction. OPI has 90 days from the June 11 filing date to rule.

Tuesday - 6/22/99

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