Philip George / Roundup
“It seems like we’ve been going through nothing but adversity this year,” said Joe Arnold, head coach of a Pierce College baseball team that has been stricken by inconsistency on the field.
The only constant has been the dugout conflict that has lingered throughout the season.
The Brahmas’ misfortune reached its pinnacle during their March 31 loss to Citrus College as starting right fielder J.C. Barker was removed from the team following an in-game altercation.
Trailing, 9-5, Barker led off the sixth inning with a walk and was thrown out attempting to advance from first to third on Sean Spear’s single to right field. Upset at coming out on the short end of a close call, Barker entered the dugout where he where he was confronted by Arnold.
“[Barker] was told what the proper play should have been but his emotions were just running high,” recalled assistant coach Mark Jordt. “He wasn’t thinking. He was caught up in the heat of the moment and just responded to what Coach Arnold was telling him.”
While the exact content of Barker’s response is unknown he allegedly made derogatory remarks about Brahma coaches, specifically Arnold.
Barker is currently waiting to correspond with Arnold before making himself available for comment on the matter. According to Jordt, Barker placed a call to Arnold following the game, but Arnold denied having any communication with the right fielder.
“When we talk, sometimes we don’t want to hear you talk back,” said assistant coach John Bushart. “We’re going to give you the information, you listen and you move on with it.
“Too many guys, I think, are making comments when they shouldn’t be. You just have to say nothing. You don’t have to agree with what we say but you’ve got to listen and respect the coaching staff and he didn’t do that.”
In response to Barker’s remarks, Arnold immediately pulled the right-fielder from the lineup and exiled him to the bullpen for the remainder of the contest, but the conflict did not end there.
Another close call at third base, this time the safe call of a Citrus base-runner in the seventh inning, drew the ire of the Brahma bench. One particular comment by an unidentified member of the team angered the umpire who walked to the dugout seeking the person responsible for the comment.
Assistant coach John Bushart was the one approached and not knowing who made the comment, gave Barkers number 34.
“It was the only number I could think of,” said Bushart. “I don’t know what was said. I just gave him any number and it happened to be Barker’s.”
It wasn’t until after the game had concluded that Barker learned that he was out of the game and off the team. He was asked to turn in his jersey during the team’s on-field postgame meeting.
“That’s a decision that I made that I didn’t take lightly,” said Arnold. “I thought that was the best thing for this team and the direction it needed to go forward.”
“There’s a lot of guys that have been distractions on this team,” said Bushart. “It’s not just Barker. There have been other incidents. “
First baseman Josh Reece has also been removed from the team due to academic ineligibility. In his and Barker’s stead, the Brahmas have shifted left fielder James Wharton to first base, Spear to left field, Matt Moreno to Spear’s vacated second base position, and have used a combination of Carlos Gonzalez and Mike LaRosa in right field the past two games.
“We need to figure out who wants to be out here and who wants to go about it the right way and we expect that these kids respect the coaches and respect the game and some haven’t been doing that,” said Bushart. “If you don’t want to respect what’s going on out here, you won’t play for this program.”
–Additional reporting by Gerard Walsh
Pierce’s J.C. Barker turns in his jersey after being removed from the team following Tuesday’s 15-12 loss to Citrus. (Gerard Walsh / Roundup)
Pierce’s J.C. Barker is tagged out at third base during the Brahmas’ 15-12 loss to Citrus on Tuesday. The play led to an altercation with head coach Joe Arnold and ultimately Barker’s removal from the team. (Gerard Walsh / Roundup)