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Two coaches under investigation for allegedly hitting players with pitches

Two coaches under investigation for allegedly hitting players with pitches


Two Hardin Valley Academy (Knoxville, Tenn.) baseball coaches are under investigation by state and local authorities after they were accused of intentionally and repeatedly hitting players with pitches during a practice last week.

Head coach Joe Michalski and assistant coach Zach Luther have been placed on paid leave from their coaching duties by the school system, according to schools spokeswoman Carly Harrington. Both are continuing their teaching roles at the school, she said.

The Tennessee Department of Children’s Services opened an investigation on March 10, according to spokesman Rob Johnson. He declined to say who filed the complaint, but it came one day after the practice where Sheri Super, the mother of junior shortstop Ryder Green, said her son and others were hit with baseballs.

The Knox County Sheriff’s Office also has opened an investigation, according to spokeswoman Martha Dooley. She declined to discuss the nature of the investigation.

Michalski and Luther did not respond to email requests for comment.

Video of the practice taken from the bleachers and provided to the USA TODAY NETWORK-Tennessee by Super appears to show a coach striking players in the batter’s box with pitches repeatedly.

According to Super, the players were forced to stand in the batter’s box while Luther threw the pitches and Michalski watched from first base during the drill. A photo provided by Super of a player’s back shows red marks on his lower left side.

The drill was prompted by a player who stepped out of the batter’s box during a scrimmage against Webb School on March 8 to avoid being hit with a pitch, according to Super. No one was allowed to leave the batter’s box during practice until they were hit by a pitch, Super said.

“What makes me angry is that my son has had two concussions since May of last year,” Super said. “What if they would have accidentally hit him the head? At that point we are talking about double vision and cognitive functioning, not whether he has a career playing at Vanderbilt.”

Green has committed to play baseball for Vanderbilt University in 2018.

Super also alleged in a letter dated March 10 to the school principals and interim Superintendent Buzz Thomas that Michalski has “used intimidation” including “bullying, pejorative name-calling, public humiliation, and now physical abuse while coaching the baseball team.”

In a timeline she provided to the USA TODAY NETWORK – Tennessee, Super pointed to a string of incidents dating back to February 2015. She accuses Michalski of pressuring an injured player to pitch against advice from a trainer last March, holding players on the field 40 minutes after a 9-2 win against Riverdale High School in April and yelling at players during try-outs in August for encouraging each other for good plays.

“I am not alone in my concerns,” Super wrote in her letter. “There are many parents who feel as strongly as I do that Joe Michalski and Zach Luther should be removed from their coaching positions. At the end of the day, these are children aged 14-18 who are being exposed to emotional and physical abuse and something finally needs to be done.”

Video in original article-

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Comment by Mike Greene on March 17, 2017 at 11:44am

I have to agree with the whomever the person was taking the video. I see nothing good that can come out of that drill. We hear "wear it" come out of dugouts and from coaches all the time, which in all honesty I do understand, but to intentionally hit players during practice is ridiculous. The other thing that seems pretty dumb from the video, is a coach that apparently has a hard time throwing consistently might want to move closer to improve his odds of throwing strikes. Top it off with not having an L-screen on the field with high school age kids. It all looks pretty unprofessional to me.

Comment by Nick Frese on March 17, 2017 at 11:49am

Dumb. The only value I can see in something like this is possibly teaching kids to turn AWAY from the pitches rather than into them — something I do way too often. That macho bullshit about "wearing one" comes from morons who have never been hit, or haven't been hit for 30 years. News flash: it hurts no matter how fast they are throwing. These guys sound like a couple of jagoffs.

Comment by Mike Greene on March 17, 2017 at 11:51am

Amen Nick!!! The older I get the longer the bruises last too.

Comment by Coach Paul on March 17, 2017 at 6:36pm
If you want players to get experience getting hit by the pitch, have the pitching staff throw live BP ;-) Use tennis balls or wiffle balls to practice turning away from the inside pitch.


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