The Pacific League lost a strong postseason contender this week after Burroughs High School administrators fired the varsity baseball coaching staff and canceled the rest of the team’s season.
Saying there were “bad decisions made,” Burroughs Principal Emilio Urioste said Tuesday that he canceled the season and fired the school’s varsity baseball coach and his three assistants after discovering that one of them served players beer during a recent Arizona trip.
Indians Coach J.R. Schwer acknowledged that a large number of players were served alcohol by an assistant coach — whom he declined to name — but said he learned of the incident last week.
“I first found out about it Friday when I was approached by Burroughs administrators at our practice,” said Schwer, who served on the Burroughs varsity baseball coaching staff for eight years, two of them as head coach. “We had other coaches and an administrator who were on the trip with us, and they didn’t even know about it.”
Though the decision by the Burroughs administration removes what had been a playoff contender from the league, Schwer’s counterparts reacted with dismay Tuesday.
At Crescenta Valley High School, which has had its share of competitive games with Burroughs over the years, Falcons Coach Phil Torres said the demise of the Indians for the season hurts the entire league.
“Our kids get cheated out of a league game, which is what you work for,” Torres said. “It disrupts the integrity of the league schedule, but more importantly, I feel for the kids [at Burroughs] who didn't do anything wrong; I've got to assume there was at least some.
“I don't know enough of the specifics, but obviously Burroughs did the right thing if they thought something was wrong. It's just a shame because now it affects everyone in the Pacific League, not just Burroughs.”
Urioste confirmed that 11 players who drank have been suspended from school for five days, effective Monday. Seven athletes who were aware of the incident, but who failed to report it, have been given two-day suspensions, the principal said.
He declined to say how he learned about the incident.
“There were bad decisions made here …,” Urioste said. “It’s very hard then to say that this person … was more culpable than another. Really, the best decision was to say that this is a serious matter … and the right thing to do was to suspend the players, forfeit the season and say that we absolutely need a new coaching staff.”
The Indians were scheduled to take on host Glendale at 3:15 p.m. Tuesday in a league contest. The Indians had nine league games remaining.
“It’s just a very unfortunate situation, and it’s really a lose-lose situation for everyone involved,” said Burbank High Coach Bob Hart, whose team lost to the Indians, 7-0, on April 8. “J.R. is a friend of mine, and I don’t like to see that happen to anyone, let alone a friend of mine.”
The Indians (6-8-1, 3-2 in league) were tied for third in the Pacific League heading into Tuesday.
“I do my best to hire the best coaches that I can, and we do everything to take care of the kids. For a coach to do what he did …” Schwer said, his voice trailing off. “I don’t think the kids have to suffer by having their season taken away from them … I just feel terrible for the kids.”