Texas high school baseball players are accused of running a “fight club” in the batting cages after a school district’s investigation also found that the team’s coaches subjected players to demeaning comments.
Complaints from the players’ parents led to the revelation of the fight club, as well as reports that Plano East High School head baseball coach Travis Collins and assistant coach Reagan Allen subjected players to demeaning, and even racist comments, according to documents obtained by the Dallas Morning-News.
The Morning News, citing one of the documents, reported that injured players in particular were targets of coaches’ comments. One student told investigators, “It was as if it was just a game to the coaches to see who could dish out the funniest nickname or phrase to ridicule the hurt player.”
An attorney for the coaches, Giana Ortiz, said they "vehemently deny" the allegations regarding demeaning comments and assert that they had no knowledge of any fight club involving their players.
"They have dedicated their lives to the game they coach and to developing players through positive example and influence," Ortiz said.
Investigators insist that the attention generated by the fights was so widespread the coaches should’ve known they were taking place, although the fights occurred while the coaches were away for a conference. The district found that some of the fights were promoted through social media and the players would sometimes come to class with bruised eyes and knuckles.
Some of the players defended the coaches to the Morning News.
Senior Devin Gifford said he never heard the coaches make demeaning remarks and that Collins and Allen actually cared for the players.
"They criticized us when we made mistakes and praised us when we did well. They never pushed to make injured players play. I hurt my arm once and told coach (Collins) that it still hurt. He just told me to play when I felt ready," Gifford told the paper.
Dan Rudkin, whose sons played for the two coaches for seven years, said he had heard no complaints.
"I've never seen anything that concerned me in all my years with the team. I never heard of a fight club, and I feel that if the coaches had — knowing them the way I do — they definitely would have done something about that," he said.
Both coaches are on paid administrative leave, and a district statement says neither coach is still associated with the baseball program.
Collins has been with the Plano school district since 2002, and Allen has been there since 2003. Their former players include Jake Arrieta, the 2015 National League Cy Young Award winner.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.