Responding to the concerns of community members, London City Schools’ administration has found that the school’s baseball program is heading in the right direction.
At the May board of education meeting, two community members, TJ Hill, a local private baseball instructor and Jason Moore, a parent with a student on the seventh grade team, voiced concerns about the baseball program, citing poor play but also concerns involving treatment of players stemming from Varsity Coach Nick Blake.
They alleged Blake was “belittling kids” and was not teaching the players good discipline, with players using foul language.
In a written statement, Superintendent Lou Kramer said the district broadened its routine program evaluation due to the allegations made, with administrators interviewing parents and students along with the coaching staff.
“Throughout the evaluation it was very apparent that the program had a significant shift in expectations,” said Kramer. “This caused some growing pains at the beginning of the season, but throughout the season, it was observed that both the coaching staff and players adapted. While suggestions have been noted for improvement, the prevailing opinion of the players and parents as well as the administration is that the program is headed in the right direction.”
Steve Fox, whose son played under Blake last season, said most parents he has spoken to would say that the program has improved. He emailed London administrators, Blake and The Press about how he disagreed with the allegations made at the meeting.
“I missed one game last year,” he told The Press. “I listened to everything that was said and nothing I saw or heard led me to believe I needed to say anything to anyone. I’m not afraid to speak up when something is wrong. Trust me if I felt something was shady, I would have spoke up.”
Fox said he felt Blake had improved the quality of play partially through his own dedication to the program.
“He’s invested his personal time to improving the team,” he said. “He worked on getting the team hitting cages, something sorely needed for a division two high school team. He has done everything to improve the field.”
“Overall, he’s trying to improve the team and he’s very interested in building the team,” he added. “The previous coaching staff wasn’t.”
In terms of behavior concerns, Fox said he never noticed any anger issues out of the coach or lack of discipline from players.
“If my son was cursing on the field, you think I wouldn’t take him out of there?” he said. “I coach travel baseball, too. I coach three of the kids on the team. If I heard or saw bad behavior, their parents would know.”
One incident mentioned by Moore, where Blake allegedly smashed an iPad tablet computer in front of players, was confirmed by Fox.
He said he did not witness the situation, but his son did. Fox said the game was a rough one for the team, who started the game winning but eventually had the tables turned on them and lost in an upset.
“With coaching, sometimes emotions can run high,” he said. “I took it as a teachable moment for my son that people sometimes do and say things we don’t agree with and you have to live with it. I know the team captains all had a discussion afterwards and they assessed what went wrong.”
Fox mentioned in his email that the discussion between the team and Coach Blake about the incident was productive and cordial, which led to a season that was still fun and improved their playing.
“I am not saying that I agree with every baseball decision that was made during the season, nor do I necessarily agree with the manner in which Nick handled certain situations,” he said in his email. “But that is OK. It’s normal for parents and coaches to disagree about certain things.”
Kramer said he had high hopes for the program in the future.
“I have the utmost confidence in Coach Blake and have little doubt that the program will continue to improve next season,” he said.
Maximilian Kwiatkowski can be reached at 740-852-1616, ext. 1617 or on Twitter @MSFKwiat.