HOST: It’s only February, but the boys of summer are heading back to work. That’s right, it’s spring training for Major League baseball. Both New York teams are back to camp, with pitchers and catchers going through their first official workouts today. And probably the biggest news is this: the Yankees pitching rotation got an upgrade over the winter. As Elizabeth Brockway reports, not everyone is happy about it.
BROCKWAY: The New York Yankees made headlines in late December when they traded for All-Star closer, Aroldis Chapman, one of the hardest throwing pitchers in the league… His fastball routinely tops 100 miles an hour.
So for him to be Yankee? That’s great news, right? For fans, like 26-year-old Oscar Valeriano, absolutely.
VALERIANO: Yeah, I’m excited because that bolsters our bullpen. I want to go to the World Series!
BROCKWAY 2: But not everyone is so thrilled. And here’s why. Moving to the Yankees wasn’t the only news Chapman made this offseason.
SPORTSCOURT REPORT: More than a dozen police officers were called to Chapman’s home in response to a domestic disturbance where he admitted to shooting his gun multiple times in the garage…
BROCKWAY: There’s more: According to the police report, Chapman choked his girlfriend and pushed her against a wall. After the news first broke, other teams in the market for a closer were spooked by the controversy.
But not the Yankees. They sensed a bargain was in the offing and acquired Chapman for a few modest prospects. And last month, the Broward County, Florida State Attorney’s office announced no charges would be filed against the All-Star.
But that’s not the end of the story. Major League Baseball has a new domestic violence policy, and the Chapman incident will be its most high profile test case. Brian Pacheco is the director of public relations for Safe Horizon, the largest victim-services non-profit in the United States. He comes from a family of Yankees fans but as for Pacheco, he’s more a fan of the new policy.
PACHECO: …because it shows that they are taking allegations of domestic violence seriously and based on what they find, they will act appropriately.
BROCKWAY: Safe Horizon released a statement following Chapman’s trade to the Yankees, praising the MLB’s investigation.
PACHECO: I think it’s just important to take all allegations seriously and to give them their due diligence. And it’s also important to note that just because you don’t press charges doesn’t mean that it didn’t happen.
BROCKWAY: Because of the allegations, a dark cloud now hangs over the start of the season for some fans, like this city employee who didn’t want to give her name because of her professional requirement to remain neutral.
FEMALE FAN 1: Obviously these men are supposed to be in a position as role models. They’re paid millions and millions of dollars and I don’t think it really matters if they’re an athlete or not. They should still be held accountable.
BROCKWAY: But for others, no legal charges means no judgment. Like Sean Clark, a bartender at Yankee Tavern, a bar around the corner from the famous Bronx stadium.
CLARK: If he did what he had to do, he deserves his suspension, but you know what, until he’s proven guilty, I would say we shouldn’t pass judgment on him right now.
BROCKWAY: And for Victor Bryant, without a legal conviction, there’s just one factor that will keep him from cheering on Chapman when he takes the mound.
BRYANT: The only thing that will change my opinion of him is if he sucks as a player. The rascal should be kicked out of the Bronx! But if he steps up and plays and he delivers, that’s all that matters to me.
BROCKWAY: Spring training begins today for the Yankees, but a formal suspension from the MLB may still be in store for Chapman, who’s vowed to fight any potential ruling from the league. And the question remains: will the new star closer be donning pinstripes come Opening Day on April 4?
Elizabeth Brockway, Columbia Radio News.