Nathans seeks $4.8m for injuries he says ended baseball career
by Daniel Tepfer
February 13, 2009
BRIDGEPORT — In a lawsuit that seeks nearly $5 million, a former catcher for the Bridgeport Bluefish claims his baseball career was ended when he was struck in the head with a bat by former all-star Jose Offerman during a minor-league game a year and a half ago.
The lawsuit by Johnathan Nathans, 29, was filed Thursday in U.S. District Court here against Offerman and the Long Island Ducks baseball team, alleging Nathans' career abruptly ended after he was struck by the bat-wielding Offerman.
"I left the field on a stretcher," said Nathans, his eyes filling with tears, during a news conference at the Bridgeport office of his lawyer, Joshua Koskoff. "I wasn't able to walk away and leave the game I loved on my own terms, but I'm determined to be strong and live the rest of my life."
Koskoff said the lawsuit seeks $4.8 million in damages.
The Bluefish and the Ducks are owned by Frank Boulton, who founded the independent Atlantic League and still serves as the league's chief executive officer.
"John Nathans tried to protect his pitcher," Koskoff said. "It was just instinctive for him, and that instinct to protect his pitcher cost him dearly."
Offerman's lawyer, Frank Riccio, countered: "The evidence, as it develops, will be a completely different story than the allegations in the complaint."
On Aug. 14, 2007, the Ducks were playing the Bluefish at the Ballpark at Harbor Yard when Bluefish pitcher Matt Beech threw a pitch that struck Offerman in the left leg. Offerman immediately charged the pitcher's mound with a baseball bat in his hand.
In the ensuing melee on the field, Beech suffered a broken finger and Nathans was struck by Offerman with the bat in the head, according to the suit.
As a result of being hit on the head, Nathans says, he suffered a concussion and permanent hearing loss in his right ear, and still suffers headaches.
Offerman, 39, an all-star infielder with the Dodgers in 1995 and Red Sox in 1999, was subsequently arrested and charged with two counts of second-degree assault.
During a hearing on Oct. 30, 2007, Superior Court Judge James Ginocchio granted Offerman accelerated rehabilitation. Under accelerated rehabilitation, Offerman did not admit guilt to the charges, but was placed on two years probation. If he commits no other crimes during that probation, the charges against him will be dismissed.
The judge ordered Offerman to undergo anger-management therapy and to pay restitution for injuries suffered by Beech and Nathans.
Although after the hearing Offerman apologized to the fans for what happened, Nathans said Thursday that Offerman has never apologized to him or paid his medical expenses.
Offerman was suspended indefinitely from the Atlantic League after the incident and is now managing a professional baseball team in his native Dominican Republic.
Nathans, who lives in Maine, played a season and a half with the Bluefish, earning about $1,800 a month, he said. He said his medical bills were paid under worker's compensation.
Nathans said he was disappointed that Offerman got what he termed "a slap on the wrist," for the attack.
"If this was somebody on the street who did this to another person, they would be in jail," he said.