Baseball

Former Batboy Files Lawsuit Against Omar Vizquel

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Content warning: Sexual assault, graphic detail, and domestic violence

A former Birmingham Barons employee has filed a lawsuit alleging former MLB player Omar Vizquel sexually assaulted him. The suit was filed Friday, August 6 in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Alabama, Southern Division, against Vizquel, the Birmingham Barons, the Chicago White Sox, and Chisox Corp.

The suit states that the plaintiff, a former batboy for the Barons, was targeted by Vizquel because of his disability. Vizquel repeatedly exposed his erect penis to the plaintiff and forced him to wash his back in the shower, citing claims that after a game on Aug. 22, 2019, Vizquel came out of a shower naked, handed him a bar of soap, and said, “Wash my damn back!”

The complaint also stated that Vizquel told the worker that he was sexually interested in men. The plaintiff noted that he had no interest in a sexual relationship with Vizquel. As part of his duties, the batboy had to continue completing tasks that brought him to the coaches’ office and shower area. One of the tasks included stocking Vizquel’s refrigerator with his favorite beer. 

On at least five occasions, the suit claims that a partially undressed Vizquel approached the batboy from behind while he was stocking the refrigerator and attempted to have “normal” conversations with him. Vizquel would allegedly expose his partial or fully erect penis to the batboy, showing that his purpose in exposing himself was to obtain sexual gratification instead of engaging in conversation.

Claims also state that rather than address the situation, supervisors and fellow coaches laughed at the sexual harassment and said “Everything that happens in the clubhouse stays in the clubhouse.” 

The plaintiff was eventually discharged from the Birmingham Barons. 

According to the complaint, the plaintiff “has substantial impairments in processing information, handling stressful situations, successfully maintaining interpersonal relations, and in activities such as driving and working,” according to the complaint. The plaintiff is accusing the White Sox and Barons of violating the Americans With Disabilities Act and intends to seek back pay and damages.

The White Sox investigated Vizquel in 2019 and ended the investigation with a suspension. Vizquel was eventually let go that September. 

This is not the first complaint regarding Vizquel’s inappropriate comments and actions. In 2015, a batboy for the Detroit Tigers said in a tweet, “Omar Vizquel told me first day batboys have to clean the coaches backs in the showers.” The Detroit batboy later told The Athletic that he thought Vizquel’s comment was a joke and did not wash his back. 

To add on to Vizquel’s history, his wife, Blanca Vizquel, accused him of multiple instances of domestic violence. Blanca Vizquel alleged the physical violence began in 2011, before their wedding in 2014, and again in 2016, and recalled a heated argument in August 2020 before she decided to leave and file for divorce. Blanca Vizquel’s first public accusation of domestic abuse came out in an Instagram live video.

Vizquel has maintained his claim of innocence, denying all of the allegations. Vizquel took to social media to make a statement. “Let me be clear and unequivocal,” he said. “I have never hit or been violent towards my wife, Blanca. Any accusation to the contrary is false.”

In 2016 Vizquel was taken into police custody in Sammamish, Washington after an incident at the couple’s home. Blanca Vizquel told police her husband pushed her over, injuring her shin and breaking several fingernails. She later asked prosecutors to drop charges against her husband, but she told The Athletic she did so only after Omar Vizquel threatened her with financial repercussions. Blanca Vizquel also described a 2011 incident when Omar Vizquel allegedly strangled her. 

Blanca Vizquel also shared that she fled to a women’s shelter in Texas after she left Omar in August. “I made a decision to leave the house and not come back. I didn’t want to feel that feeling where you didn’t know if you’re gonna be safe,” she said.

Vizquel has appeared on balloting for the National Baseball Hall of Fame since 2018 when he received 37.0% of the vote. His support increased to 52.6% in 2020 and was 49.1% as of the 2021 ballot, his fourth appearance. It is unclear what his future will look like, but hopefully, the character clause for the Hall of Fame will be held up. 

Baseball is meant to be fun, but the mental gymnastics the marginalized fans must endure making this entire situation hard to navigate. Major League Baseball, coaches and staff must do better and believe victims.

If you or anyone you know has endured sexual assault, physical or domestic violence, please know that you are not alone and help is out there. 

Here are some resources: 

National Domestic Violence Hotline

RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network)

Follow me on Twitter @chrystal_ok for more of my content. Don’t forget to listen to our baseball podcast, Cheap Seats Chatter! We’ll see ya there!

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Main image credit Embed from Getty Images

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Chrystal is a lifelong baseball fan that spends her time between Indianapolis and Chicago.