A former Rancho Bernardo High School baseball player, who filed a lawsuit against the Poway Unified School District and the school's famed baseball program, says a former coach's sucker punch derailed his collegiate baseball aspirations.
The suit claims then 14-year-old Alex Coast suffered brain damage after being punched in the back of the head while doing pushups by freshman coach Dan Kelly in July 2014.
"He had a lump on the back of his head about the size of the half of a ping pong ball," Alex's dad Mark said.
The pushups were ordered by the coaches as an attempt to force the players to reveal who had written unflattering comments about the coaching staff in the helmet storage area in the dugout, according to court documents.
In November 2016, Coast was diagnosed by a physician who believes the injury from the punch led to eyesight impairments. His vision issues eventually made it unsafe to play baseball.
Rancho Bernardo High's baseball program, along with its former coach Sam Blaylock, is legendary.
It’s produced several professional players and was referred to as "The factory" in the movie "Money Ball."
The Coasts are hoping their lawsuit, which claims Blaylock created a "toxic environment" for their son after he reported the alleged assault, will prove that the winning culture came at a price.
According to the lawsuit, coach Kelly would routinely call the players derogatory names and punch them in the chest or arm to "toughen them up."
It also describes another coach routinely using his hands or a wooden bat to "tap" the players in their groin. That coach on several occasions also damaged or destroyed players' equipment, like breaking the laces in their gloves, and nothing was done despite it being witnessed by coach Blaylock, according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit says parents felt intimidated by the coaching staff and were fearful that complaints would result in their kids being removed from the baseball program and shut them out from future scholarship opportunities.
"Hopefully, in the long run, someone is not going to be abused because of the system," Mark said. "The wins are not worth the abuse."
Coast is now in college out of state and has shifted his career focus toward the Marine Corps.
Kelly no longer coaches at the school.
The district said it has not yet seen the lawsuit, but it also cannot comment on pending litigation.
Attorneys included a letter from the district dated April 2017 in which the district denied a claim filed by the Coasts because it was not presented within six months of the incident as required by law.