UPDATE: Fountain youth baseball coach fired over MMJ use



SECOND UPDATE: We've obtained copies of the board's minutes, as well as version of the letter Carl Benda was supposed to have sent to Sanner on official letterhead.

Neither has been provided to Sanner, though he has requested it. In an e-mail to fellow members of the board, Benda writes [sic], "I did draft a response to his request and after talking to my attorney, he advised me not to respond to Jay Sanners request. But rather give him the meeting minutes and to direct him to the website which has the policy manual there, and to only give him information that any other member of the league would have access to. His suggestion was not to put anything writing to Jay Sanner, in regards to this specific issue."

Meeting minutesf

Policy clarification

UPDATE: We've included a copy of a justification letter Sanner requested from Baseball Association president Carl Benda, who drafted it but never sent it to Sanner, per his lawyer's advice. Benda maintains that most of the contents of the letter were discussed at the board's meeting, while Sanner says the entirety of the meeting was focused on his MMJ use. Click below for the full text.


Jay Sanner: 'I treat my players like I treat my own kids.'
  • Jay Sanner: 'I treat my players like I treat my own kids.'

Jay Sanner knows what all baseball fans know: The only thing worse than the season ending is waiting for it to begin again. And the pull is even greater for Sanner, who coaches youth baseball in Fountain Valley.

Or he used to coach, anyway.

"Baseball season starts the same time every year, and it’s registration time, so I registered my boys, believing that I was going to coach just like I coach every single year," says the 42-year-old Fountain resident in a phone conversation with the Indy.

Unfortunately, this year played out a little different for Sanner, when the league board fired the seven-year coach after learning he was an MMJ patient, a drug he started taking in 2002 in the hopes of replacing the legion of painkillers he was taking after breaking his back in the Army in the mid '90s.

"I started taking the medical marijuana because my liver enzymes where getting so high because the Army was just mailing me painkillers — answer to everything is just more painkillers," he says. "They couldn’t figure out why my liver enzymes where getting so high, and when I stopped taking a lot of the pain medication, my liver enzymes started going down. So I actually quit taking pain medication all together, and that’s when I got my medical marijuana license."

He continued to use MMJ after being diagnosed with colon cancer last year. As well as undergoing chemotherapy treatments — one Facebook update reads, "Home and done with infusions till 3 weeks from now. Now it is just oral chemo for 2 weeks ... I can not complain much because I am still here to write these messages!" — Sanner recently had an eight-hour surgery to remove 11 centimeters from his colon.

While a call to Fountain Valley board member Carl Benda was not returned, KKTV reported the board said "some parents had expressed concern about Jay's condition and the medication he was taking and they thought it would be best if he took a year off."

"I never saw the concerns and I don’t know who those parents are," Sanner says, adding that the board itself was divided on any action to take: "I got to this board meeting and pretty much the entire meeting is on the medical marijuana. Now one of the board members is crying because she knows it’s wrong, and she’s my friend, and she doesn’t want to see me get hamstrung like I was. But the board member knew it was wrong; the president of the league and the head umpire both said there shouldn’t be anything done at all.

"But they didn’t vote, because they knew what they were doing was wrong. So the two 'Captain Americas' — one of them in the military, one of them in the fire department — one nominated the motion and one seconded the motion and nobody else voted and that’s how I was voted out to not be able to coach anymore.”

Asked if he had ever previously clashed with the board over intoxication issues, Sanner is adamant.

"I’ve never been down there intoxicated; I don’t get high before I go down there. Have I taken a Percocet or something so I can make it through a practice, because I’m the one throwing batting practice or hitting all the pop flies? Of course!" he says. "I never showed up to the park inebriated or anything, and there’s a lot of guys down there who can’t say that."

In the meantime, Sanner, who is currently unemployed and receiving disability, is left to wait out the requested year, while the board likely institutes rules around MMJ.

"To say they have problems, worried about me and my attitude, I mean, come on," he says in disbelief. "Seven years of coaching there, no problems: You know my attitude already, and they know my heart."

Dear Jay,

Per your request on 3/25/2011 sent via email: “So can you tell me what policy I am not being allowed to coach as”.

Policy Manual:
Fountain Valley Baseball Association Standards of Conduct pg. 13 Item 2. No foul or abusive language will be tolerated from one member to another or between members on the playing fields or within the confines of FVBA ballpark.

Item 5. Verbal or physical abuse directed towards, or occurring between any member(s) will not be tolerated. Abuse is defined as anything that is detrimental to the physical, mental, or emotional well-being of another individual.

Item 9. All members shall conduct themselves in a manner that reflects the highest of standards set forth by the Fountain Valley Baseball Association and Babe Ruth Baseball whenever they are representing Fountain Valley Baseball Association.

Section 2. Suspension or Termination of Membership.
A. Membership may be terminated by resignation of the member in writing or by approval vote of seven of the nine board members.

B. Members may be suspended from active participation in association activities by vote of seven of nine board members’ approval.

C. Upon termination of membership, all dues and fees shall be forfeited in their entirety.

During the special board meeting which was called to discuss the grievance report that was filed by Ray Soltwedel about the comments that you made to a player at the Majors Tryout session, that was held on March 5th. You verbally attacked Ray Soltwedel by cursing him out and calling him a f***** liar and used numerous other profane words towards him. You also showed extreme anger towards Ray Soltwedel and started to come across the table towards him in an aggressive manner and had to be told to calm down, by several members of the board. On the same date during the Senior Tryout Session you made comments to Kenny Bosier “that this league sucked” and that “everyone was out to get you”.

Babe Ruth Rules 2010 edition page 19
Tobacco (All Divisions) Babe Ruth League, Inc. prohibits the use of all tobacco products, including smokeless tobacco for both local league and tournament competition. This rule applies to all field personnel, which includes managers, coaches and umpires.

Parents Contract
Item 5
I (and my guests) will not engage in any kind of unsportsmanlike conduct with any official, umpire, coach, player or parent such as booing and taunting; refusing to shake hands; or using PROFANE language or gestures.

Item 14
I will demand a sports environment for my child that is free from drugs, tobacco, and alcohol and will refrain from their use at all sports events. This was agreed to, by you when you registered your children online via the Babe Ruth League Website.

The special board meeting that was held with you, to discuss concerns that several members/parents in the league had concerning your medical marijuana prescription and your contact time with their children as an assistant coach had to be discussed with you. Our discussion was not the legal issue of the medical marijuana prescription (MMJ) but rather the concerns of the membership/parents and your physical and mental ability to service as a coach while you are dealing with your colon cancer. You, yourself decided to bring and exhibit all your medications on the meeting table for our view to which you stated that you are under taking chemotherapy and are on over 42 different medications including Oxycontin and Percocet and MMJ. Your Oxycontin and Percocet are prescribed to be “taken every 4 hours”, you stated that you used the MMJ to help with your appetite and to gain weight.

A motion was made and carried to ask you to step down from coaching for this season, until the board could get more information from Babe Ruth League, Inc. and the City of Fountain, and asked you to be a parent and help support the League, so the board could gather more information on this matter. You refused to step down and a motion was made and carried by the board to not approve you as a manager or assistant coach for the 2011 season until the board could get further guidance from Babe Ruth League and The City of Fountain.

It is the Boards decision to allow any person to manage or coach in the league. We are entrusted with the responsibility to care for all matters pertaining to the safety and well being of each child, player and member in the league. Our desire is not to suspend or terminate your membership with FVBA, but to look after the safety and well being of the children and membership of FVBA. It was decided by the board that the safety of the children comes first, while you stated you would not take your medication or use your medical marijuana. We have no way to monitor it and didn’t know how we would be able to test for it when a parent filed a grievance report founded or unfounded. [Emphasis added]

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