MAPLEWOOD, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — An Essex County baseball coach is accused of bullying and intimidating his own players, and students say it’s happened more than once.
As CBS2’s Meg Baker reported, high school sports is supposed to be a mix of fun and competition for college scholarships.
“They love baseball; all of these boys, that’s what they live for,” said parent Mary Jo DeFranco.
But at least four families say the enjoyment has been taken out of baseball at Columbia High School in Maplewood, New Jersey.
Players say video featuring shouting and vulgar language taken by a teammate is nothing compared to what they describe as bullying and harassment by varsity coach Joseph Fischetti and assistant coach Matt Becht.
“I hated being there,” said senior Alex Nathan.
Nathan, a three-year varsity starter, was unexpectedly cut his senior year.
“They took my last season away from me,” he said.
Nathan’s father Randy believes his son was cut as retribution. Randy is a bullying consultant who worked with the school district and other players in the first internal investigation into the coaching staff’s behavior, Baker reported.
“We need to let people know that what is happening with these coaches is not acceptable,” Randy said.
Alex said the coaches eventually caught the kids videotaping their behavior, took the phone and deleted it.
Coach Fischetti is currently under investigation for the second time by the school district for abuses both on and off the field, Baker reported.
One parent told Baker his son’s story.
“Yelling at him, screaming at him. And coach Becht is a pretty big guy. He stood in front of the door, he blocked it and David wasn’t able to get out,” said parent Anthony DeFranco.
“I sited specific instances of how they bullied, harassed and intimidated me,” said DeFranco’s son David.
“And there was an investigation done and the coaches were found guilty of H.I.B.,” Anthony said.
H.I.B. stands for harassment, intimidation and bullying. But the coach was reinstated this past spring season.
CBS2 approached coach Fischetti outside South Orange Middle School, where he is a physical education teacher, but he quickly hopped in his car and back out of the entire length of the parking lot, Baker reported.
The school district would not comment on camera, citing confidentiality. But in a statement, the district said “We take every allegation extremely seriously, and carefully investigate and address issues as they arise.”
CBS2 reached out to assistant coach Becht, who had no comment.
The parents of the older players said they came forward with the hope of bettering the experience for younger players.