Deer Creek Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Jason Perez told parents the district’s Athletic Director, Bill Bays was alerted to an incident of student athletes injured on September 26.
“Within thirty minutes, he made contact with Deer Creek High School (DCHS) Head Principal Mark Phillips, DCHS Baseball Head Coach Roland Baza, and me as he began gathering information,” said Dr. Perez.
Deer Creek officials spoke with over two dozen players and gathered statements from Deer Creek staff present at the Sept. 26 practice the following day.
News 4 has seen pictures of injuries during the practice in question. Skin is peeled back at the knuckle and at least two players’ hands were covered in blisters.
At least five students have reportedly suffered second degree burns to their knuckles and one had to go to a hand specialist on Wednesday because of their injuries.
“I want to express my sincerest apologies to you and our players for the events that unfolded… While we believe the intent was not to harm our baseball student athletes, as educators it is our job to keep our students safe, and we failed… The information gathered from our investigation determined that a change is necessary. Coach Baza will no longer serve as head coach for Deer Creek Baseball. We will begin the process of naming a new head coach in the coming weeks,” stated Dr. Perez.
As of Monday, Deer Creek Public Schools has confirmed an interim coach has not stepped in yet.
One Deer Creek High School baseball mom recently posted to social media, calling the incident “unacceptable.”
“My son is one of the boys who has second degree burns on his hands… do I understand trying to hold the boys accountable? Absolutely, but the ‘exercise,’ or whatever y’all want to call it, happening to the point of injury is unacceptable. He has not lied about the incident and has not been asked to lie about anything,” she wrote.
A Deer Creek High School baseball dad emailed News 4 on Monday, saying, “Coach Baza was a coach who loved his players. He would never do anything to intentionally cause them harm. What happened was an accident. The intent of the drill was not to hurt anybody and once Coach Baza was alerted to players being harmed physically the drill was stopped. I have boys that are on the team and went through the drill that day as witnesses to the events that took place. I could give you countless stories of Coach Baza supporting and being there as a mentor and friend to his players.”
He explained how he supports the former coach and believes the decision to terminate his employment was made in “haste and was based on half truths and personal agendas on playing time.”
The district met with the baseball team on Friday to make players aware of the staffing change.
We reminded the players that they are not to blame for any of this and that a strong team is not built around a single person. Our high school counselors will be available should your child need to process their feelings regarding this matter further,” said Dr. Perez. “These types of decisions are never easy to make. Nevertheless, the primary focus for our district remains the safety, well-being, and development of our students now and in the future. As this issue moving forward relates to personnel decisions, any additional information related to Coach Baza cannot be discussed. It is my hope that we can work to rebuild your trust in our program as we prepare for a new baseball season in the spring.Deer Creek Public Schools
News 4 has messaged Baza on social media and called a cell phone number affiliated with his name. We haven’t received a response so far.
The Oklahoma County Sheriff’s Office is investigating. No arrest has been made nor have charges against Baza been filed as of Monday afternoon.