Kevin Drum points to this LA Times story about a father who is suing his son's former high school baseball coach over allegations that the coach ruined the kid's arm and thus his chances to get a college scholarship and/or a shot at the big leagues.
John Emme, the baseball coach at Corona del Mar High in Newport Beach, has been sued twice in two years by Marc Martinez, a physician whose son pitched on the school team.
Martinez alleged in his first suit that Emme harmed his son J.D.'s future as a college pitcher by making him pitch too many innings, damaging his arm. Martinez pulled his son off the team in his senior year and later filed another suit, saying the coach made false statements in a newspaper article, ruining his son's chance for a college scholarship and, perhaps, a career in the big leagues.
Despite claims by parents such as Martinez, the role of the high school coach in the college recruiting process has generally diminished. These days, scouting services specialize in shopping kids to colleges, complete with videotape packages highlighting a player's strengths.
"We always say, 'You can't hide Babe Ruth,' " said Bob Flint, a high school baseball coach for 35 years who has spent the last three seasons at Irvine's Woodbridge High School. "Even if I wanted to completely bury a kid, I couldn't do it if you're good enough, they'll find you."
Of course, we're assuming that JD Martinez was a prospect in the first place:
Martinez showcased J.D.'s right arm as much as he could during the summer and fall. After his senior year, J.D. played in a tournament in Waco, Texas, before numerous college scouts. Marc Martinez said his son was given a "7" rating out of 10.
"He was throwing 83 to 84 miles an hour," Martinez said. "He was stronger and better than he had been in high school. The scouts in Texas said he was a prospective Division I college player and a potential lower-round draft pick."
How about the amount of alleged damages?
But J.D., who declined to discuss the case, was not recruited by any Division I programs, even though Marc Martinez said his son received about 30 letters of interest from colleges. Martinez, who asked for $25,000 as well as punitive damages in his suit, said Emme told him that he was going to "close the door" on his son's chances of getting a college scholarship. Emme said he never closed any doors on the young baseball player.
Interestingly, Gary Huckabay of the Baseball Prospectus has a Premium article about avoidable injuries and the theoretical possibility that a pitcher may some day sue his team for ruining his career as a result of careless or reckless overuse, citing the current example of AJ Burnett (see here and here for more info) as a case in point. Huckabay lists issues of proximate cause (was it really the manager's fault, or was this injury the result of many factors over time?), assumed risk and contributory negligence, and standard of practice as things a jury would have to decide.
The latter issue is another place where the Martinez case would likely fall down. There's certainly evidence that throwing too many pitches per game leads to a higher risk of injury, but there's no real consensus yet as to the quantifiability of that risk. The idea is still mostly confined to stathead types - many coaches and general managers at all levels of the game are skeptical if not dismissive of the idea. The upshot is that it would not be considered at all unusual or reckless for a high school coach to put a heavy workload on a star pitcher.
So yeah, this is a frivolous suit. It should get tossed pretty quickly.Posted by Charles Kuffner on May 05, 2003 to Baseball | TrackBack