NORTH ATTLEBORO — A coach delivered an angry, profanity-laced speech to members of the high school’s varsity baseball squad last spring in what one parent is complaining was an abuse of the players.
The parent, who did not wish his name used in this story, forwarded a copy of recordings of the remarks by North Attleboro varsity baseball coach Mike Hart to The Sun Chronicle Monday.
The parent said in an accompanying email that the audio files were made “by a scared juvenile student athlete,” whom he did not name, but which, he said, have been widely circulated on social media. It’s unclear if Hart knew he was being recorded.
In a brief statement, Superintendent John Antonucci said that Hart’s behavior was “not acceptable” and was addressed as a “personnel matter” by the school. Hart, who is also a high school faculty member, remains as baseball head coach, Antonucci said.
Hart’s address to the team, which included sophomores, juniors and seniors, evidently came after the Rocketeers’ 3-1 victory over Canton High last May 24. In a talk heavily salted with swears, Hart sharply criticizes the team — not so much for their on-field play as for their behavior.
The parent first made his complaint to former Superintendent Scott Holcomb in July and later forwarded a copy of that email to the newspaper. In it, he says the game against the Canton Bulldogs was “chippy” from the beginning. “Even the coaches were bickering back and forth.”
After the bus ride home, the parent writes, Hart called the team together. Despite the victory over a Hockomock League rival that evened their record to 4-4, Hart was upset with his squad, as seems clear from his agitated and almost pained tone.
In the course of the approximately 6 1/2 minutes of audio, Hart claims that some team members were using foul language during a pick-up basketball game at the high school before leaving for Canton and goes on to say he’ll do the same when talking about their actions at the baseball game.
“I’m so (expletive) embarrassed,” Hart tells the squad, a sentiment he expresses more than once. He criticizes the team members for believing they are “tough” because they play for North Attleboro.
“You cheer on your teammates and that’s it. Who gives a (expletive) what the other team does,” he says. “We had a good win today and you ruin it with that (expletive).”
He goes on to say that players who want to behave improperly can turn in their uniforms. “You can be an (expletive) or you can be a baseball player. You cannot be both,” he says.
Hart did not respond to email or phone messages seeking comment.
The Rocketeers went on to take the championship of the Davenport Division of the Hockomock League and win two post-season tourney games before falling to Hopkinton, 7-2, in the MIAA Division 2 south sectional semifinals in June.
Hart, a 2008 graduate of North Attleboro High School and a three-sport athlete during his student days, has been head coach of the Rocketeers baseball squad since 2018. Before that, he was an assistant coach for eight years under Paul Tobin and also serves as an assistant football coach. He is also a math teacher at the high school.
Antonucci, who came on as superintendent some three months after the incident, confirmed he was aware of Hart’s actions.
“In July 2021, the North Attleboro Public Schools administration was made aware of an incident where a coach used strong language, including curse words, when speaking to the team, following a game where some players had exhibited inappropriate and unsportsmanlike behavior toward another team,” the superintendent said in an email to The Sun Chronicle.
“Following an internal investigation, district administration addressed the matter in accordance with the district’s policies and procedures. The district took this incident seriously and addressed this issue in a timely fashion. As this is a personnel matter, no further information is available. The matter is considered closed,” the statement said.
It’s not clear what sanctions, if any, were imposed on Hart.
The Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association, which governs and organizes high school sports across the state and maintains a code of ethics for coaches that says they “shall strive to set an example of the highest ethical and moral conduct,” said it had received no complaints about the North Attleboro coach. Hart is a certified MIAA coach.
The parent who sent the email and the recordings says he had been in contact with former Superintendent Scott Holcomb and other officials over what he referred to as “abuse” of the players, including his son. He also forwarded a long list of communications with school officials as well as some internal emails he obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request.
At least one of those emails referred to Hart’s having apologized for his behavior. Others mention a workshop on “positive coaching” that was held at the high school in August. However, the parent said he reached out to The Sun Chronicle because he felt the incident was “being swept under the rug,” and that the administration was committed to defending Hart from the beginning.
Tom Reilly can be reached at 508-236-0332 or email@example.com.
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