Mitchell irked to learn of suspended pitcher's DUI arrestBy GREG AUMAN, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published March 20, 2003
TRINITY -- Pitcher Tyler Clippard's dismissal from the Mitchell baseball team last week came two days after his arrest on misdemeanor DUI charges, and infielder Derek Shortz, also dismissed, was a passenger during the arrest, according to school officials.
Mitchell coach Phil Bell and athletic director Ian Mooney said they did not know of the arrest when they dismissed both players for violating team rules, and the fact that Clippard did not inform them of the arrest added a new level of disappointment to this month's events.
"We did not know about this, and we obviously wish them to be truthful and honest with us," Mooney said.
March 7, the night of the arrest, Mitchell led 5-0 against defending conference champion Pasco when the game was suspended by rain in the first. Bell took the team back to Mitchell and told it around 9:30 p.m. it would skip its Saturday morning practice, giving it a rare Friday night off during the season.
Two hours later, Clippard, 18, was stopped by Pasco County Sheriff's Office deputies after he ran a stop sign at Prestwick Place and Kinsmere Drive, according to police reports. Shortz is not identified in the report, but he lives within a block of the intersection and Mooney confirmed he was in the car with Clippard.
The deputies reported smelling alcohol on Clippard's breath and said he had "red bloodshot glassy eyes" and "slurred speech." Clippard did poorly on a field sobriety test, according to the arrest report, and a blood-alcohol test produced results of 0.069 and 0.081. By state law, a driver is deemed too intoxicated to drive when his blood-alcohol level is 0.08 percent or higher. Clippard was arrested and released on $500 bail.
"It's been a difficult situation for everyone involved," Bell said. "I was disappointed to pick up the paper and learn something I didn't hear from one of my players."
Following county discipline guidelines, Clippard would have been suspended from the team for four weeks from the time of the arrest, with another four-week suspension to follow any guilty or no-contest plea. Mooney said Mitchell does not have additional discipline procedures but said a committee of coaches had discussed a plan that would be implemented for 2003-04.
Clippard is scheduled for a court hearing April 4. Hans Grieble, the assistant public defender assigned to Clippard's case, said he cannot comment on an open case but could address the standard disposition for a first-time DUI offense with no aggravating circumstances.
The defendant's driver's license typically is suspended for six months, though a hardship license for work or school-related transportation can be issued after a mandatory DUI class and any counseling is completed. Defendants typically avoid jail time but are subject to 50 hours of community service, $581 in court costs and a probationary period of nine to 12 months.
"He's sorry for it, and I hope this is something we can get past," Clippard's father, Bob, said Wednesday. "It's a shame because he's never really had any indiscretions like this, and he's a good kid. We're trying to make a good thing out of a bad thing now."
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