Travel coach implicated in McCarthy baseball probe denies wrongdoing – Sun Sentinel
A local youth travel team coach at the center of a recent state investigation of Archbishop McCarthy High’s baseball team says misunderstandings and overreaction are at the heart of numerous violations that have the Southwest Ranches school facing stiff penalties.
On Thursday, the Florida High School Athletic Association fined Archbishop McCarthy $16,000 and forced the school to vacate all 22 of the team’s regular-season wins for fielding three players who were found to be ineligible and who received impermissible benefits.
McCarthy, which just this week was named the No. 1 team in the nation in a composite media poll announced by MaxPreps.com, was allowed to keep its state title – the team’s seventh in the past eight years — because none of the ineligible athletes played in the postseason, FHSAA spokesman Kyle Niblett said. The three players have been ruled ineligible until Jan. 25, 2018 and the school is on administrative probation until June 20, 2018.
In a report commissioned by the state’s governing body for high school sports, which was obtained by the Sun Sentinel late Thursday, Mike Sagaro, who runs MVP Banditos, a powerhouse summer travel program for top-level national prospects ages 7-18 that’s based in South Florida, was found to have provided temporary housing to one of the McCarthy players in violation of Florida’s prep sports rules. In addition, his credit card was reportedly tied to the tuition accounts for the three players.
Sagaro said the player in question comes from a bad family situation and has lived with his family for the past four years.
Sagaro’s son, a student at Archbishop McCarthy who plays for the Mavericks, and the player became friends in 2012 while on the same USA Baseball national prospects team. The player’s name was redacted in the report.
Sagaro said while he has had temporary custody of the player since 2013, the boy’s family signed over full custody in court in Broward County in May.
The three players all received full financial aid to attend Archbishop McCarthy, according to Sagaro, who said his name was tied to only two of the accounts, one of them the player under his care.
Sagaro said the father of the second player asked for help setting up an account, which he could not do because he did not have a credit card. Sagaro said the registration fee of $36, which was flagged as an impermissible benefit in the state report, was the only charge he paid on the account.
Sagaro’s American Express card also was listed on a third player’s account, but he claims that was an error.
The FHSAA, which received multiple anonymous tips related to possible ineligible players on McCarthy’s baseball team, opened its investigation in February.
The three players in question competed in the regular season this past spring, but did not see significant playing time for the Mavericks. McCarthy’s director of baseball, Alex Fernandez, a retired major-leaguer who played for the Miami Marlins, said the boys were held out of postseason play at the request of the administration.
McCarthy finished the season 29-2 after capturing its third straight Florida Class 6A title on June 3. The forfeitures trim the Mavs’ 2017 mark to 7-24, the seven wins dating from May 2, when McCarthy opened district tournament play with a 10-0 win over Stranahan.
Todd Fitz-Gerald, Douglas High’s baseball coach who also manages a local 12-and-under team that competes against the MVP Banditos, said some of the violations at McCarthy are likely the result of travel ball mentality on Sagaro’s part.
“I just think that guys don’t understand the rules sometimes,” Fitz-Gerald said Friday. “They think they’re helping the kid when they’re really hurting the kid. I don’t think there was any mal-intent there.
“Until you’ve been a high school coach and know the rules and regulations of the FHSAA, (trying to help) can be detrimental if you don’t know what’s going on.”
Fernandez, who also has coached summer travel ball with the Pembroke Lakes Bulldogs, said Friday that it’s difficult to police every player and their parents in every aspect of their lives to assure rules aren’t broken.
Fitz-Gerald said he believes McCarthy’s administration and coaching staff “did the right thing by not playing those guys,” and added, “It’s a shame that [the players] have to forfeit a whole year of eligibility because of the idiocy of one person that doesn’t know the rules.”
Staff writer David Furones contributed to this report.