Allegations of verbal abuse, rage issues and poor coaching practices were brought before London City School’s Board of Education at a meeting Tuesday night by two members of the community.
TJ Hill, a local private baseball instructor and Jason Moore, a parent with a student on the seventh grade team, spoke to the board about actions by the new coaching staff which had alarmed them both.
Both are London natives and former varsity baseball players at the high school.
Most of their concerns and allegations involved Nick Blake, the varsity coach who took over after Jason Barber left for another position.
Blake was formerly with the Dublin Coffman team, spending the last seven years coaching on the staff there under Hall of Fame coach Tim Saunders.
“Many parents, too afraid to voice their concerns, watch Nick Blake belittle their kids, coaches and demonstrates anger management issues. During one game, he smashed an iPad,” said Moore.
According to Moore, parents and community members saw Blake smash the tablet computer in the dugout while yelling at his players.
He said he had been to 20 or more games outside of his son’s and had seen behavior by Blake that alarmed him, including yelling and cussing at kids.
Hill corroborated some of the claims made by Moore, particularly the language used by both coaching staff and players.
“I’ve heard numerous times the ‘f-word’ and the ‘m-f-word’ and that bothers me the most, I would say,” said Hill. “And it’s not just the coaches, but the players on the field who are saying this stuff out loud. In my opinion it’s a direct reflection of their leader.”
He was also concerned with the education and development of the players’ skills, noting issues he felt were unsafe.
An example he gave was batting practice, which he claimed was being conducted unsafely with players not using protective barriers properly.
“That to me is unacceptable,” said Hill. “To watch another kid, in the cage try to throw, and he’s lobbing the ball fading behind the l-screen, to me that’s a liability. What happens if he gets hit by a line drive because he doesn’t get behind an l-screen?”
Hill said he has no children in London, as they go to school in Akron, nor is he interested in a coaching position but is concerned for the students.
He mentioned that some London players go to him for paid supplemental lessons.
“For me to be here is really silly because I’m making a ton of money for the terrible coaching that’s going on,” said Hill. “But it’s just sad to watch.”
Moore also had a personal concern. He claimed his son’s coach Justin Collins was arrested for a DUI in London by the Madison County Sheriff’s office in late April, further claiming that it was in a recently published sheriff’s report.
An individual named Justin A. Collins, who was charged with a DUI in London, appeared in a sheriff’s report from late April, but The Press was unable to confirm if this was indeed the coach mentioned by Moore.
“My wife and I trusted our son with this coach. He continued coaching without suspension,” Moore said. “Simply put, who is making decisions in our athletic program? Why should we allow our kids to participate in such a mess? Who is vetting these individuals before hiring?”
Hill remarked it reflected poor decision making.
“Where are we setting the bar when it comes to coaches? Hill said. “Because it appears to me the bar is very very low.”
“These are the leaders who we place to lead our young generation?” he added. “That’s not what I’m looking for.”
Moore said he sent an email to Superintendent Lou Kramer and Athletic Director Jim Wolverton about his concerns, meeting with Wolverton Monday night on possible solutions.
He recommended a steering committee consisting of parents and varsity players, ideally merit-scholars or honors students, to review decisions and give recommendations to the director on how to improve.
“At the end of our meeting, I thought we had an understanding,” Moore said. “An hour and a half later, I get a call from Jimmy Wolverton, your athletic director and apparently he couldn’t agree to what our recommendations were.”
Kramer and Wolverton declined comment, with Kramer stating he took the claims seriously but wanted an investigation to take place before any comment was given or actions took place.
“It’s tough when people make allegations and the district hasn’t had an opportunity to investigate,” said Kramer. “We just want to act on facts not emotion.”
“Overall, I’m pleased with the direction taken place in our baseball program,” he added. “Our athletic director has taken steps to improve the strength of the program as a whole. But we want to investigate this, as it is a concern when we hear accusations of any personnel behavior that we wouldn’t condone.”
Wolverton deferred any comment to Kramer.
Maximilian Kwiatkowski can be reached at 740-852-1616, ext. 1617 or on Twitter @MSFKwiat.