KNOXVILLE (WATE) – Two Hardin Valley Academy baseball coaches are on paid leave from coaching due to an investigation by the Knox County Sheriff’s Office.
Parents say Coach Joe Michalski and Assistant Coach Zach Luther forced players to be hit with pitches on purpose.
Some parents say it’s not a big deal, while one parent says for years there has been a pattern of intimidation, bullying, name calling and more while these coaches worked with the team.
“Unfortunately our season has been derailed before it ever started,” said Shane Parks.
His son is an infielder on the Hardin Valley team and says the boys were going through a “hit by pitch” drill last Thursday.
“But they weren’t throwing baseballs. These were called incredi-balls that they were using, which is a ball that’s made for this drill. It’s much softer. although it still stings when you get hit. My son didn’t have any bruises,” added Parks.
It was worrisome enough for one mom to write a letter to Knox County Schools. In the letter where she writes, “Growing concern amongst parents and the emotional toll this is having on the players leaves me no choice but to report the events.”
Parks says the coaches walk a fine line when it comes to the drill and that some parents may not want baseballs to hit their children.
“I can understand in 2017 that may not be accepted by all. We understand that and so therefore maybe you need to seek permission before you do something like that,” he said.
Michalski and Luther are on paid leave from coaching while this baseball practice drill is investigated.
“We’re really upset that our coaches have come under this level of scrutiny,” added Parks.
In Joe Michalski’s personnel file there are letters from 2014 where then-superintendent Jim McIntyre was looking into a claim Michalski had the boys “bear crawl” across the hot asphalt. Dr. McIntyre wrote that poor judgement during that drill caused a student to get hurt. So, he suspended Michalski for four games during the 2014-2015 season.
“The kids are the ones who’ve put in the work all these years, the coaches have been right there by their side trying to teach them to the best of their ability. And this is about the coaches and the kids, it’s not about the parents,” said Parks.
Also in those personnel files was an incident involving Michalski in January 2014. He was arrested and accused of public intoxication. The charges were dropped after Michalski paid court costs and agreed to community service. The school system punished him with three days of unpaid leave.
The coaches’ attorney, M. Jeffrey Whitt, has not yet responded to a request for comment. TSSAA says this is a personnel issue that their organization has no authority to get involved in.