Ill. baseball coach resigns for 'personal reasons,' but press box controversy raises doubts

Ill. baseball coach resigns for 'personal reasons,' but press box controversy raises doubts

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Ill. baseball coach resigns for 'personal reasons,' but press box controversy raises doubts

A longtime baseball coach at an Illinois high school has resigned citing personal reasons, but some are convinced that he is instead stepping down to avoid increasing scrutiny and controversy about an unauthorized addition built on a press box at the team’s publicly-owned field.

As reported by the Belleville News-Democrat, O’Fallon baseball coach Jason Portz resigned shortly after his team was upset in the IHSA Class 4A super-sectional by Chicago Sandburg. When asked why the 16-year O’Fallon coaching veteran was resigning now, he chalked the decision up to personal reasons.

Yet while the resignation of a coach with a school record.768 winning percentage makes it appear there was nothing the program did wrong, that’s hardly the case. As noted by the News Democrat, Portz has been at the center of a controversy focused on the press box at Blazier Field at Community Park, a community-owned facility. Per the News Democrat, the original “new” press box at Blazier Field lasted from 2007 until 2010, when additional modifications ran afoul of state and federal compliance.

Here’s how the News-Democrat chronicled the press box’s evolution:

“… Two years later, the building fell out of compliance with Illinois’ accessibility code when unfinished space above the lower-level concession stand was converted to a locker room. Water and sewer lines at the park also were tapped without city permits or knowledge of the school’s administration, Benway said.

Moreover, the additional square footage triggered state and federal code requiring the upstairs be made accessible to people with disabilities. Those alterations weren’t discovered until 2015, six years after they were completed.

The city waived utility tap-in fees, but disconnected water and sewer and ordered the locker room sealed off. Portz and his staff continued to use the area for storage, however, leading an anonymous caller to complain to the Illinois attorney general’s office, which subsequently launched its own investigation.”

That run of controversy has continued unabated, even as the team surged to one of its most successful seasons in 2018. And while there is no timetable about when the Illinois Attorneys General office will rule on whether the city has to bring the building up to code — at a cost of up to $80,000 — Portz could have continued as the program’s head coach, delivering continuity and the real prospect of additional growth.

Instead, O’Fallon finds itself looking for a new baseball coach for the first time in nearly two decades.

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Ill. baseball coach resigns for 'personal reasons,' but press box controversy raises doubts
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