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Dad sues after his kid hit by a pitch — why, yes, the dad IS a lawyer

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I’m not knee-jerk about taking the opposite position when everyone else is decrying something as another brick in the wall that is the pussification of youth sports. And it’s pretty easy to jump on a lawyer who sues over his son getting hit by a pitch, especially because he wasn’t there to see what happened.

On the other hand, if there is no other mechanism to punish coaches who intentionally call on their players to hurt the opponent in the name of competition, in flagrant violation of the United Nation’s Convention on the Rights of the Child, then a lawsuit there must be. In the major leagues, players and managers get kicked out games and fined for throwing at players, so why should there be no repercussions in youth baseball?

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So often, a violent act such as intentionally throwing at a batter begets more violence.

The situation: Michael Connick, 13, was trying to bunt with the bases loaded in a 13-and-under game in the travel Great Lakes Baseball League, which covers Northeast Ohio. What’s not in dispute is that the first pitch to Michael was way high and inside, and on the second, he was hit by the pitch, breaking his left hand. What is in dispute is whether the opposing coach ordered the pitcher to hit him intentionally.

From the News-Herald in Willoughby, Ohio:

Tom Connick, who also is an attorney [note to lawyer haters -- not just an attorney, but a trial lawyer], filed a lawsuit this week in Lake County Common Pleas Court claiming Scott Barber, an assistant coach for the Titans, committed assault and battery against his son during the game at Haven’s Baseball Complex in Jefferson Township.

According to the suit, Barber ordered his pitcher on the mound to “throw at” Connick’s son, which resulted in the boy “severely” breaking his left hand.

“Immediately after (Michael) fell to the ground, and while writhing in pain, defendant Barber again yelled from the dugout, ‘Good!,’ thus confirming and ratifying his order to ‘throw at’ and intentionally and recklessly … hit the plaintiff,” Tom Connick stated in the suit.

Connick claims that even after Michael left the field for the hospital, Barber encouraged other reckless and/or negligent physical play, including instructions to run over players on the opposing team.

How did Connick know this, given neither he nor his wife were at the game? I’m not sure. The story doesn’t explain. I presume the other parents on his team angrily and breathlessly told him what they saw happen on that fateful June 24. And then Connick responded by suing the coach and the league, which he said failed to discipline Barber, even though state youth baseball rules say intentionally throwing at a batter is illegal.

Connick and his wife, Corrina, are seeking more than $25,000 in damages, lost wages and attorney’s fees [Note: I presume lost wages are for Connick missing work, not because Michael already has a job. Or maybe he's mowing lawns for pay already].

In addition, they want Judge Richard L. Collins Jr. to ban Barber from coaching or participating in any youth sports for at least 15 years.

Michael’s father … stressed that his family is not suing for the money.

“Anything he gets will go toward his medical bills, then a college fund through probate court,” Connick said. “I’m a lawyer, but I’m also Michael’s father. I don’t want people thinking I’m some scumbag attorney.”

Too late! From “The Slapper,” run just as it was typed, in the Herald’s comment section:

There are risks in every sport, and if the parents don’t like it, then too bad. It’s people like this attorney that give try to live through their children. People like this ruin it for everyone. Everything is a law suit. Quite being a cry baby and deal with the fact that your poor little baby got hit by a ball. If he doesn’t know how to get out of the way, then maybe he shouldn’t be trying to bunt. I feel bad for the kid, but there are a lot of hurdles throughout life that everyone has to deal with. Keep parents like this off the baseball fields. They’d be safer in the library. I would hate to see this kid play football, and the coach say sack him. This attorney would be suing for that!!! “

Although to be fair, plenty of commenters showed support for the lawyer, given all of the out-of-control behavior from coaches they said they’ve witnessed. Also to be fair, Barber — varsity baseball and golf coach, as well as seventh-grade boys baseball coach, at Jefferson Area Junior-Senior High in Ashtabula County, Ohio — has not responded to the allegations, and the league backs up him as a good and decent coach.

One question I’ve seen from some commenters is, why didn’t the umpire say anything after the first pitch? First, the umpires for these events are low-paid drudge workers, so they’re not necessarily training their ears to know if something scurrilous is going on. Second, with it being 13-and-under baseball, no umpire would believe a pitcher has enough control to throw at a batter, accurately, especially twice in a row.

Third, these low-paid drudge workers want to get home without fighting with anyone, so they may take the path of least resistance — which means not throwing out a coach who obviously is doing wrong. The other day my daughter’s 10-and-under travel softball team was called out for not touching the plate, not because the ump saw she didn’t touch the plate, but because my daughter’s team was up 10-0, the other coach was screaming (as he had all game), and as the ump told my daughter’s coach, “I just wanted to shut him up.” (The lost run turned out not to be an issue, but my daughter’s coach was a bit perturbed that he essentially was penalized for being a nice guy. To digress, this call had the effect of teaching the girls to make sure they hit the plate. My daughter touched it twice the other day when she scored, just to be careful.)

I have no sympathy for any coach who tells anyone to hurt someone intentionally. It’s one thing to hurt players if everyone is playing hard — say, a collision at the plate between the catcher legitimately trying to block it and the runner legitimately trying to score. But if this coach really was demanding his pitcher throw at another player, and the league and his club fail to take any action, then I don’t blame Tom Connick for doing what he knows, and suing the bastards into compliance.

Even those who don’t care much for trial attorneys might agree that a few lawsuits might dial down the number of grown-up coaches who seem to get their competitive jollies over telling one kid to hurt another.

Written by rkcookjr

July 18, 2010 at 4:25 pm

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