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Westlake MVP Cut From Baseball Team Appeals Case

<i> Times Staff Writer </i>

Craig Cooper, the most valuable player on the Westlake High baseball team last season, is appealing to officials of the Conejo Valley Unified School District for reinstatement after he was cut from the team Feb. 23, Cooper’s father said Wednesday.

According to Herman Cooper, the appeal is based on the grounds that his son was dismissed from the team because of a lingering emotional disorder and not because of his performance on the field. Cooper added that he has retained an attorney and will file a lawsuit against Rich Herrera, the Westlake coach who cut Craig.

Cooper, who batted .351 with 27 hits last season as a junior, suffered a “manic episode” in August, according to Herman Cooper, and was treated with medication under a doctor’s care. Craig discontinued use of the medication, however, and suffered a relapse in November.

“During his recovery period Craig decided he didn’t need the medication and regressed,” Herman Cooper said. “The coach turned his back on Craig and made Craig feel really crummy.

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“As he was coming back from his illness, it was a confusing time for him.”

Cooper had sporadic attendance at school and baseball classes during the fall semester because of the illness, his father said.

Herrera, a first-year walk-on coach, declined comment.

Westlake Athletic Director Bob Fisher said that he supported Herrera’s right to cut Cooper.

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“The coach has the prerogative as to the make-up of his team,” Fisher said. “A lot of kids get cut every year. And I get a lot of calls about it--that’s not unusual.”

Herman Cooper said that Carol Erie, the district’s director of secondary education, has heard the case and will render a decision by Friday. If the decision is unfavorable, Cooper said that he would appeal to the superintendent’s office.

“The kid has been devastated,” Cooper said. “He’s been in his room. He’s withdrawn. I don’t know what we’re going to do.”

Craig, a 6-foot-1, 185-pound center fielder, led the team with six home runs and had 19 runs batted in.

“The coach has a right to do whatever he wants,” Herman Cooper said. “But a senior doesn’t get the benefit of the doubt when he produced as he did as a junior?”


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