Stacy Martin | May 18, 2018

Cushing baseball coach out as police investigation continues

Stacy Martin

The embattled baseball coach at Cushing High School is no longer coaching according to Cushing Superintendent Koln Knight.

“He's still working here just not as baseball coach,” Knight said.

Jon Yates had coached baseball for four years at the school, but every year had drawn criticism for his coaching style even as questions surrounding fiscal issues have swirled.

Superintendent Koln Knight confirmed in an email that Yates’ program’s finances are being investigated by the Cushing Police Department “after a citizen’s complaint.”

In the email to baseball patron Sherrie Bean, Knight said, “To my understanding the complaint mirrored the financial concerns that you shared with me.”

“We have and will continue to assist the police department with their investigation,” the superintendent’s email concluded.

Bean was working as a booster club volunteer when Yates arrived in Cushing four years ago. She said she saw numerous booster club irregularities.

She said when she was a volunteer there were baseball patrons who wrote checks directly to Cushing High School. She also questions whether the booster club paid taxes to the state of Oklahoma.

Three years ago, as a reward, Yates took the boys to Phoenix. Yates was given full access to the team’s funds via a debit card. After the trip, the team didn’t have enough money left to pay for team jackets it had ordered for the boys.

“There is lots of missing money and questionable accounting procedures,” Bean said.

Ultimately, she resigned as a booster club volunteer because she didn’t want her involvement to negatively affect her business reputation. She has been lobbying for investigations into the booster club finances and Yates ever since.

She began to bring her concerns to the attention of the school’s administration. She appeared before the board of education. She complained to Knight. She contacted the Oklahoma Tax Commission and the Oklahoma State Department of Education. Brick walls met her at every turn, she said.

“There is lots of missing money and questionable accounting procedures.”

Her nephew, Waylon Roe, whom she raised like a son, played for Yates. After she started complaining about the booster club and about Yates, Waylon was benched after having been a long-time starter. 

Parent Jeff Lesperance said his family’s experience with Yates was “about as bad as you could get. He just treated my son A.J. like crap.”

“He did things that I never saw him do with any other player,” said Lesperance. “Going out on the field in the middle of an inning and very angrily and demoralizing, ‘cause he missed a ball I don’t think anybody could have caught.”

One another occasion, Yates berated young A.J. for missing a practice to attend a class.

A.J. quit the team during his sophomore year, said the father, who noted that he is sick about the situation.

“Baseball was his passion. He ate, drank, slept baseball. He’s pretty well hung up his cleats,’’ he said.

Lesperance is convinced there was a “pay-to-play’’ attitude on the coach’s part. 

“There was several kids that started … that if you looked at what their parents did, whether they were on the school board, or they gave lots of money to the booster club, their kids played.” There was “absolutely” a pay-to-play attitude, he said.

When Yates wanted to enclose the dugout with a metal roof and metal siding, Lesperance volunteered to help.

“A.J. started the next three games,’’ said Lesperance. 

Lesperance said he complained to the superintendent last year and brought some issues to light.

Bean concurred that there was pay-to-play attitude on the part of Yates. As evidence, she furnished an invitation to Yates’ house that urged baseball patrons to “bring your checkbook’’ to a party. Parents unable to attend should write checks in advance to the fundraiser, the invitation stated. 

This reporter spoke with numerous parents whose sons quit the team rather than play for the explosive coach. Yates could not be reached to comment for this story.

Stacy Martin

Independent Journalist

Formerly a reporter at The Oklahoman and editor of The City Sentinel in Oklahoma City, Stacy Martin is an independent journalist.

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