Two Hardin Valley (Knoxville) High School baseball coaches who were investigated and cleared after complaints they abused players have filed a $6 million lawsuit against the parent who made the accusation.
Head coach Joe Michalski and assistant Zach Luther filed the lawsuit against Sheri Super alleging defamation Wednesday in Knox County Circuit Court. Each coach is asking for $1 million in compensatory damages and $2 million in punitive damages.
Super did not immediately return a call and email requesting comment.
The coaches claim Super lied about injuries to a player and sent a letter to school administrators detailing an “incredibly dangerous” practice drill that was both “emotionally and physically abusive.”
The coaches said Super knowingly made a false allegation in retaliation over earlier disagreements about her son’s involvement with the team.
The Tennessee Department of Children’s Services and the Knox County Sheriff’s Office launched investigations into the coaches. They were eventually cleared of any wrong-doing.
Both coaches were placed on leave in mid-March and quickly retained Knoxville attorney Jeffrey Whitt, who at the time called the allegations “blatantly false.” The coaches were reinstated by March 29.
Video of the practice taken from the bleachers and provided to the USA TODAY NETWORK – Tennessee by Super appears to show a coach repeatedly striking players in the batter’s box with pitches.
According to Super, the players were forced to stand in the batter’s box while Luther threw the pitches and Michalski watched from first base during the drill. A photo provided by Super of a player’s back shows red marks on his lower left side.
The balls used during the drill were not real baseballs, but a lightweight “training” ball, according to the lawsuit. The player whose injuries Super had referred to in her allegations had actually received the bruise from a real baseball during a scrimmage, the lawsuit claims.
The drill was prompted by a player who stepped out of the batter’s box during a March 8 scrimmage against Webb School to avoid being hit by a pitch, according to Super. No one was allowed to leave the batter’s box during practice until they were hit by a pitch, Super said.
“What makes me angry is that my son has had two concussions since May of last year,” Super said. “What if they would have accidentally hit him the head? At that point, we are talking about double vision and cognitive functioning, not whether he has a career playing at Vanderbilt.”
Super’s son, shortstop Ryder Green, has committed to play for Vanderbilt University. He has since transferred from Hardin Valley to Knoxville Christian.