Baire out as Madonna coach

WEIRTON – Jeff Baire is out as the Weirton Madonna baseball coach.

Practice started on Feb. 25 with Baire, but he was officially notified of his firing on Tuesday evening via a phone conversation with Principal Steve Grasser.

“I cannot comment on personnel issues,” said Madonna athletic director Jon Kendrick. “T.J. Brancazio will be the interim coach for the year.”

That phone call was followed by a termination letter from Grasser to Baire dated March 5.

Baire received the letter Wednesday and opened it Thursday morning.

Baire, who led the Blue Dons to two West Virginia Class A state championships, including one last season, was in his second tenure at the school. His record stands at 101-39 the past five seasons.

He has spent eight seasons total with Madonna and had just started his ninth.

The Blue Dons were 19-51 during the 2001-03 seasons under his first watch, and, in his final year the first time around, his squad led Wheeling Central in the seventh inning in both sectional games, only to lose to the eventual state champion.

“I can confirm that Jeff is no longer the coach,” said Grasser, who is in his first year at the school. “I can’t talk about the whys and wherefores. I need to respect the school and the individual.

“I cannot say anything as to why he is no longer the coach. It’s a personnel matter. I just cannot comment.

“I can confirm that we are moving forward with T.J. as the coach for the remainder of the year.”

Brancazio, the school’s golf coach, is beginning his fifth season as a member of the coaching staff.

Grasser did confirm the timing of Baire’s departure.

“I can confirm that it was in the last couple of days,” he said.

Baire’s termination letter states:

“Due to your actions that have been inappropriate for your role as a member of the coaching staff at Madonna High School, your employment is terminated effective immediately.

“You are to have no further contact with the players or student-athletes in any type of coaching role, but as a parent of a Madonna student who is also active in athletics, including the baseball team, you will be permitted to participate in Madonna events as a parent.

“However, as a terminated employee, your words and actions must be appropriately supportive of Madonna High School for you to maintain that privilege of participation. Words and actions that could be associated with a disgruntled, terminated employee and that undermine the mission and functions of Madonna High School would lead to your loss of privilege to participate, even as a parent, in any function involving Madonna High School.

“I do thank you for your service to Catholic education.”

Baire admitted to a driving under the influence arrest in the early morning hours of Dec. 10.

On Feb. 13, in Hancock County Magistrate court, the Weirton resident pleaded no contest to driving under the influence and was found guilty. The sentence of 30 days in jail was suspended and he was placed on six months unsupervised probation.

He was fined $200 and assessed court costs and a $30 probation fee. The charges of driving on a suspended license (administrative), driving left of center and speeding were dismissed at the prosecutor’s request.

It became public on Feb. 26.

Baire firmly believes the DUI had everything to do with his dismissal.

“Yes it did, I’m going to assume,” he said. “In the termination letter it’s not stated that way, though it says ‘inappropriate actions.’ But what are the inappropriate actions? And how ‘you’ personally interpret them, will determine how you view the rest of the letter.

“And for that reason alone, the same detail used in the remainder of my termination letter should have been applied to stating why I was let go, specifically.”

Baire also said he felt blindsided by the decision to terminate his employment with the school.

“Well, that’s one way to say it,” he remarked. “I was told on Feb. 28, that the meeting I had on Monday was a ‘fact-finding mission’ ordered by our diocese.

“However, three minutes into the meeting I was given this ultimatum, resign or be fired. No other options. To me, a ‘fact-finding’ usually involves some form of information gathering. An attempt to find evidence so you could make an educated evaluation of any situation, not just this one.

“That just simply did not happen. And still has yet to happen. I’ve not even been asked about the DUI at all by anyone from the school. I just can’t understand why I’m being prevented from defending myself. And why there is such an attempt at keeping me from doing so.”

Although Baire said he is deeply disappointed that he will not be around to coach the players in defense of their state championship, he said it goes far deeper than that.

“My concern is the overall well being of the boys – and they are hurting,” Baire commented. “This group has been around me since T-ball. They have grown up with my son.

“These parents, in the program, now more than any time ever, know me. Today was the second day in a row that the players went to speak, as a team, to voice their feelings and opinions. One question comes to mind. Why such a rush to judgment? Without using due diligence, how was the decision made? Why, if it’s that clear cut, is so much effort being made to quiet me?

“In the end, our program has been built on one main approach – be accountable for your actions, they have consequences, and learn from your mistakes.

“I completely accept whatever consequences that go with my action that night. I let down so many young men whom I’m a coach and role model to. What makes it even harder is that one of them also calls me ‘dad.'”