Coach in Wheelchair Brings Lawsuit
May. 01, 1999
LOS ANGELES (AP) _ A paraplegic high school baseball coach who uses a wheelchair can finish this season without restrictions that some umpires had imposed such as preventing him from approaching the mound during pitching changes.
After meeting privately with a federal judge on Friday, both sides agreed that for the remainder of the season, Victor Barrios will have the same coaching rights as those who don't use a wheelchair, said his lawyer, Jilana Miller.
``Coach Barrios will be able to coach as all other coaches do,'' Miller said. Barrios was at a game and not available for comment.
The California Interscholastic Federation and the Orange County Baseball Officials Association also agreed to work toward resolving the issue for future seasons. The plaintiffs' lawyers couldn't immediately be reached for comment.
Some umpires had restricted Barrios from going onto the field, saying his wheelchair slowed games and posed safety concerns.
Barrios and his lawyer say that's crazy.
``If anybody's watched (former Los Angeles Dodgers manager) Tommy Lasorda walk to the mound, well, coach Barrios gets out there faster, even before all the kids get in,'' Miller said.
Barrios filed a civil rights lawsuit against the CIF alleging the governing body of high school athletics was preventing him from coaching because he uses a wheelchair.
The U.S. District Court suit, filed Tuesday, said the CIF and co-defendant Orange County Baseball Officials Association ban that keeps Barrios off the field is a violation of the American's with Disabilities Act.
Barrios, 26, coached baseball for four years at Magnolia High School, another CIF school, without objection. When he moved to Westminster High School this season, umpires told him he would have to remain in the dugout.
Barrios has been confined to the dugout for eight of 13 games played this season by the Westminster Lions, who were 5-4 in league play.
Barrios, a former gang member paralyzed from the waist down in a shooting seven years ago, shares the coaching job at Westminster while he works toward a physical education degree at Fullerton State.
``I'm just happy that we've taken a step toward making CIF and the umpires let me do the job I was hired to do _ coach baseball,'' he said after the suit was filed.