MLB Clubhouse Manager Fired for Helping Opponents Doctor Balls

Jesse Pantuosco
March 06, 2020 - 12:39 pm

Another day, another cheating saga making the rounds in Major League Baseball. Though not as high-stakes as recent developments out of Houston and Boston, the Angels were forced to nip their own crisis in the bud Thursday, axing longtime employee Brian Harkins for lending a helping hand to opponents. Harkins’ 30-year tenure as L.A.’s clubhouse manager ended on a sour note after the team’s internal investigation, which was prompted by allegations levied by Major League Baseball, revealed he had provided illegal substances to opposing pitchers for doctoring baseballs.

Pitchers scuffing balls or adding grip-enhancing substances to gain an edge has been a widespread problem in baseball, seemingly since the sport’s inception with recent examples including Michael Pineda’s suspension for blatant pine tar use in 2014 and a similar ban given to then-Brewers reliever Will Smith the following year (a sunblock and pine tar blend was his undoing). The epidemic was brought to light recently by Reds vigilante Trevor Bauer (also a vocal critic of the sign-stealing Astros), who estimated 70 percent of the league’s pitchers rely on substances not permitted by MLB.

The Angels have been mum on Hawkins’ dismissal with club execs citing “legal restrictions” for the lack of transparency, though team president John Carpino did confirm his departure. The Angels chose not to fire any other employees, determining Harkins acted alone in supplying opponents with a substance comprised of rosin and melted-down pine tar. Known by most around Angel Stadium as “Bubba,” Harkins first joined the team as a bat boy in 1981, advancing in rank to clubhouse attendant in 1986 before eventually being tapped as visiting clubhouse manager, a promotion he earned in 1990.

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