A San Ramon family is pushing for changes in the California High School baseball program, claiming that players receive preferential treatment if they play on a coach's nonschool youth team and are retaliated against for bringing problems to light.
San Ramon Valley school district officials said they have investigated the charges and found no evidence of preference or wrongdoing in some other allegations. But one coach, who said the family is just upset about their sons not making the school teams, was removed midway through the current season.
Diane Zwarg said the problem started in February when her sons Nick, a junior, and Noah, a sophomore, were not picked for the varsity and junior varsity teams, respectively. Nick had played baseball the first two years at the school, and Noah had played on the freshmen team, she said.
"It was pretty obvious there was something wrong there," Zwarg said. She wants new coaches at the varsity, junior varsity and freshmen level and more disclosure of possible conflicts of interest.
She believes junior varsity coach Scooter Torres, who was in his first full season with the district, may have exerted his influence on player selection after she saw an e-mail sent last summer by another parent encouraging others to play on Torres' youth team, the East Bay Rockhounds.
"He wants to build a team (the Rockhounds) that pretty much will become the Cal High freshman team," the e-mail said.
Zwarg, who said others have heard Torres say playing on his youth team will secure a spot on school teams, said the son of the parent who sent the e-mail became captain of the freshmen team and that four other players had played for the Rockhounds. In addition, she said, other member of the freshman team played on another youth team coached by a cousin of Torres.
During subsequent meetings, Zwarg said, varsity coach Brian Coburn — who district officials said makes player decisions on all three school teams with others — said he overestimated some of her older son's abilities and underestimated other players.
Zwarg said she does not think he could have been around for some of the observations he said he made and that he is not watching performances carefully enough.
School district spokesman Terry Koehne said the district found no evidence of preference, adding that some students who played on the Rockhounds were also cut. But he said the district will be discussing a formal evaluation for its sports tryouts in light of the allegations.
Another allegation from the Zwarg family, who this year did not pay the requested but voluntary donations for the first time, is that coaches are told who donated and that it influences their decision making.
Koehne said the district also found no evidence coaches knew who paid, and that some students who did not pay were on school teams. But he said wording on forms does not make it clear the payments are voluntary and that they will be changed.
But a claim that Torres used the school's facilities without authorization for his youth team was substantiated, according to school district documents provided to the Times. Koehne said that authorization includes paying fees that go up to $55 an hour for private, commercial use.
Koehne said Torres, who has been with the district since May 2007, is on paid administrative leave and will not be hired for next season, but would not say why.
Torres said the district used the field use a grounds for its actions, though he believes it was an excuse to appease the Zwargs. He said he was allowed by the school to use the fields, which he did Sundays, because his $2,000 stipend was low. He said the Zwargs are just angry because their sons were cut.
"That family is taking this overboard," he said. He said the district first wanted him to resign, which would have cost him his stipend, and that the ordeal has caused him to see a psychiatrist.
Torres, 27, said he works in construction but that coaching is his job, and he gives everyone a fair chance.
"I'm there for baseball," he said.
Zwarg said her complaints are not driven by her sons' experiences, but to ensure fair tryouts for students in the future. She also said Coburn encouraged players to retaliate against the family.
Coburn, a teacher who has coached seven years and is now in his second season as varsity coach, denied the Zwargs' allegation that he encouraged retaliation against them, saying that he has explained the events to players but never mentioned the family by name.
Freshmen coach Bill Hoefs referred questions to the district.
Reach Eric Louie at 925-847-2123 or firstname.lastname@example.org.