The gap between college and pro coaches seems especially wide in basketball — where both Mike Montgomery and Tim Floyd have found out the hard way that Baron Davis is not going to run those suicides, no matter how hard you yell — but college baseball managers are perhaps even more from a different universe than pro managers. Off the top of my head, I can’t think of any college managers who’ve gone on to run a team in the Majors. A quick Google search reveals that Dick Howser coached Florida State for one year, in between Big League gigs. That’s it.
While there are no doubt some crucial differences between running a college practice and handling millionaires who have already demonstrated themselves at least minimally conversant in the fundamentals (note: statement does not apply to Matt Kemp), it seems strange that more managers haven’t bridged that gap. It seems less strange, though, when you meet Jay Bergman (above), the quasi-legendary longtime manager of the University of Central Florida Black Knights. Yes, he shaped the pro careers of Esix Snead and Mike Maroth — and Chad Mottolla; that’s it — but, at least in Iliana Limon’s portrayal of his case in the Orlando Sentinel, he was also kind of a…well, sadistic and somewhat terrible human being? Does that sound right for a guy who simulated a baseball bat rape on the team’s equipment manager?
[Equipment Manager Chris] Rhyce told the university in a written complaint that he was held down on the field, fully clothed, by a baseball staff member before a March 7 game while the players watched. Bergman was said to have grabbed a bat and shoved it toward Rhyce’s buttocks, three sources told the Sentinel. The incident followed what Rhyce described as months of verbal abuse by the coach. UCF and Rhyce’s attorney have refused to disclose the letter sent to the school outlining Rhyce’s complaints about Bergman.
“I was completely shocked by these allegations,” Bergman said in a statement sent to the Sentinel earlier this month. “Anyone who has worked with me throughout my 40-year career knows that I am not capable of any behavior that is intentionally disrespectful to my players or staff.”
Former UCF player Derek Abriola said the allegations were not out of Bergman’s character. “He liked to pick on people and then pretend he didn’t realize you didn’t like it,” said Abriola, who is now playing independent league baseball for the Alexandria Aces in Louisiana. “A couple of friends of mine who are still on the team told me about what happened with the equipment manager a few weeks before the news broke. I wasn’t surprised. It sounded like something Coach Bergman would do.”
There’s more in there, and Bergman certainly doesn’t come off as a very nice guy. Whether his behavior was out of the ordinary for college managers, I don’t know. But I do know that Ozzie Guillen seems to have stole Bergman’s baseball-bat-as-phallus gambit.