A junior college baseball coach was forced to resign after it was revealed his team had earpieces in batting helmets.
Rodney Velardi stepped down after 13 seasons as the coach of Atlantic Cape Community College in south Jersey after his team was suspected of receiving signs through the earpieces.
During a game April 22, an opposing first baseman told his head coach he thought he heard a voice coming out of a helmet.
“I didn’t believe it,” Rowan College Gloucester County head coach Rob Valli said, via the Courier Post. “I just thought, nah. I didn’t believe it. I didn’t not believe him, but for that sophisticated of cheating, I just didn’t think they would do it. I didn’t think they would do it.”
Valli said he held off on notifying the umpires until he and his team were 100 percent certain of their suspicions.
“For me, I wasn’t going to go right up there in the first inning. We had to confirm that’s what it was. So, second time up, those same guys got on, and he was confirming with me the whole time. Once those guys got on, he’s saying ‘I hear it. I hear it.’”
Valli then asked an umpire to check two Atlantic Cape helmets, and he found earpieces in each of them.
“(He was) as surprised as I was,” Valli said. “The reaction was I went out and said they have headsets in their helmets, and he seemed surprised. … He’s like, ‘How do you know?’ I explained our first baseman has been hearing this now, and we just confirmed it the second time these guys got on base.
“In 30 years, I’ve never asked an umpire to check a helmet, but I’m out here now, and I’m telling you now you’re going to find earpieces in these helmets, and he goes, ‘OK, let’s check.’”
Nobody was ejected, but Valli did say he would not continue playing the game until a camera in center field was no longer operational. Valli’s best guess is Velardi was using that camera to zoom in on signs from the catcher because he had an iPad in the dugout, possibly watching a livestream of the game.
“Whether he did or not, who could prove or say, but he had an iPad in the dugout, and you’re not allowed to do that,” he said.
Velardi was initially handed a four-game suspension, but Atlantic Cape Chief Marketing Officer Laura Batchelor said, “We had asked for him to resign.”
Suspicions arose in the first game of their series when Rowan College pitcher Ethan Dodd felt he was making “good pitches” but wondered if he had been tipping any.
Atlantic Cape is the No. 5 seed in its playoff tournament that begins Saturday.