Yahoo – If you played sports as a kid, you may have unknowingly put yourself at risk. Every time you jumped for a rebound, dove for a volleyball or even slid into third base, you could have suffered a serious injury. For many, those are routine actions a player performs in the heat of the moment. They are part of the game. But for one New Jersey baseball coach, it turned into much more than that. A decision to tell a player to slide nearly ruined that coach’s life, according to Steve Politi of NJ Advance Media. Yes, that happened. A New Jersey high school baseball coach was sued after one of his star players got injured sliding into third base. The coach — John Suk — instructed the player — Jake Mesar — to slide into the base on what Suk believed was going to be a “bang-bang play.” Mesar, who was 15 at the time, heard a pop in his ankle. He needed multiple surgeries to correct the issue. The injury was much worse than you might expect, according to Politi.Doctors were able to repair Mesar’s ankle, but it came at a cost. His baseball career was over. On top of that, Mesar could no longer do high-impact activities. He was even discouraged from jogging. Mesar’s attorneys called Suk’s coaching experience and education into question. They painstakingly went over the play, questioning whether Suk gave Mesar enough time to slide and whether Suk was paying attention during the play. Suk’s defense hovered around one thing: Sliding is a routine action in baseball. An injury like this can happen, but often doesn’t. The jury wasn’t fully on board with Suk’s reasoning initially. Six of the eight jurors believed Suk was not at fault. The jury needed seven of eight members to agree to reach a verdict. After some convincing, one member of the jury changed their vote. Suk was cleared. He was facing a seven-figure payment if the jury found Suk liable. Had things not gone Suk’s way, he believes the verdict could have resulted in the end of high school sports.
If you’re from around here, you’ve probably heard this story. It’s been a 7 year saga that just wrapped up after a completely preposterous lawsuit. The story is heartbreaking: 23 year old third base coach told a 15 year old to slide, the kid broke his ankle, required multiple surgeries, the bone began to die, he almost needed his foot amputated, and was never able to play again. Absolutely brutal turn of events for a kid playing the game he loves, doing something he had probably done hundreds and hundreds of times. Doctors told him he could never play again, and should avoid any and all impact activities. They told him to never even jog, ever again.
I can’t imagine what was going through that poor kid’s head, or his parents. I think most people’s reaction to hearing that they sued the coach is “Are you fucking kidding? Give me a break!.” But I can absolutely understand the need to feel like you gotta do SOMETHING to combat the worst goddam luck ever for your child. When life throws you such a curve ball and deals you such a shitty hand, you feel so victimized you gotta do anything you can to make up for such a bad break. I can understand his parents feeling helpless and resorting to the only option that seemed available, and that’s litigation. I also understand that in cases like this, you’re actually going after the insurance companies and not the individual in question. It’s not like John Suk was going to pay out of his own pocket had he lost this case. This was a family going after the deep pockets of an insurance company to help pay medical bills and compensate for this kid losing his ability to do any sort of activity. Being totally honest, I understand that. Your 15 yr old almost just lost a leg and there’s a big insurance corporation that can cut a check to make his life easier? Who wouldnt understand that perspective?
But man oh man does that suck for a dude like John Suk, and basically the entire future of youth sports. NJSIG, the insurance company involved in the case, decided to fight this to the bitter end given the circumstances. It dragged out for over 7 years. John Suk never thought it would even make it to trial, let alone turn into a nearly decade long black cloud hovering over his head. He took the stand at 31 years old for an unfortunate accident that happened when he was 23. Jason Mesar, the injured player, took the stand at the same age his third base coach was the day he suffered that injury. In the end, the insurance companies and John Suk won. He was not held responsible for a freak injury. And I honestly cannot fathom the blow back that would have resulted had they lost. Even despite winning the case, the ramifications for a defining case like this can be major. I mean who in their right mind would ever volunteer to coach youth sports anymore? If I’m a 23 yr old who wants to get involved with my community, am I gonna open myself up to this sort of risk?? This dude was barely out of college and probably wanted to help out his old baseball coach. Next thing you know he’s gotta lawyer up and he’s facing a decade long nightmare. Fuckkkkkk that. Just not worth the potential risk in today’s litigious atmosphere. He told a kid to slide with the appropriate amount of time and space, an unfortunate accident occurred, and next thing you know his entire adult life is weighed down by this court case.
And how about school districts? At what point do they just say, “fuck it, sports is not worth the hassle.”? Today they won. But will they win the next one? The next time there’s an injury where there actually was some blame on the coach or school? The next time theres a better case for the pissed off parents who are demanding some sort of retribution. What happens then? This case cited how John Suk was not an expert, did not complete proper training, and never took any courses to be qualified in the matter at hand. Uhhh yea no fucking kidding! How many JV baseball coaches are completing educational courses to become full blown experts in their field? I mean cmon now. Not every youth coach is Tom fucking Emanski or from Tito Francona’s coaching tree. I’m not saying this one case is enough to cause this NJ school district to shut down athletics, but who knows what the future brings. If we got parents suing over baseball slides what the fuck is gonna happen to football coaches? Brain trauma and football injuries all over the place every single week. And as cases mount up, insurance premiums start to soar, legal fees snowball, bad publicity weighs you down, and eventually some Super Intendant says “You know what? This aint worth it.” And for a change, I actually agree. Or, at least, I cant blame them. Ordinarily here at Barstool we have a long running feud with school officials and their stupidity, but in this era, with the way parents and kids handle themselves? Its eventually just going to become a business decision. A dollars and cents decision. A common sense decision. Shit like this keeps up and eventually the juice is just not worth the squeeze.
Shout out to all the coaches out there who deal with bullshit like this. Even if its not something as dramatic as a 7 year, 7 figure lawsuit, theres always some nonsense they have to tolerate now. You cant discipline your athletes anymore. You cant ride them hard. You cant yell at them. Fuck, you cant even put out your desired team on the field or court without complaints and threats. Best case scenario these days is a few parents call you and cry about their kid not getting playing time or how they got their feelings hurt at practice. Worst case scenario is you’re getting sued for millions of dollars. Just aint worth it.