Fired Los Angeles Angels Clubhouse Attendant Settles Defamation Lawsuit

After a tumultuous three-year legal battle, Brian Harkins, the former Los Angeles Angels clubhouse attendant who was fired for distributing foreign substances to players, has finally settled his defamation lawsuit with his former employer. This settlement brings an end to a saga that saw the case initially get struck down in court, only to be revived later on.

Jury selection for the trial in Orange County Superior Court was set to commence, but the two sides managed to reach a settlement over the weekend, just before the proceedings were scheduled to begin. While the exact amount of the settlement remains undisclosed, it marks a resolution to the dispute between Harkins and the Angels.

Harkins, who had served as the visiting clubhouse attendant at Angel Stadium for over three decades, was terminated in March 2020 amidst Major League Baseball’s crackdown on the use of sticky substances. These substances were found to significantly increase spin rates and had become widely prevalent in the sport. Harkins had been concocting a mixture of rosin, pine tar, and “Mota stick” – a type of glue used to grip bats – for pitchers, which violated a memo issued by former MLB executive Chris Young. The memo strictly prohibited the use of illegal substances and made it clear that any team personnel found facilitating it would face consequences.

Unfairly Vilified?

Harkins’ attorneys argued that their client had been unfairly portrayed as a “scapegoat” in MLB’s efforts to curb the use of illegal substances. They pointed out that the entire baseball industry, including pitchers, hitters, umpires, coaches, and executives, had turned a blind eye to this widespread practice that provided an advantage to pitchers in gripping the ball. Harkins claimed that he never sold the mixture as a side business, although he admitted to receiving small sums of money, up to $100, from players. Furthermore, he argued that he was unaware of the memo’s contents, as he had never been given a copy until after his firing.

In January 2021, Harkins’ legal team submitted text messages from prominent pitchers, such as Gerrit Cole, requesting his concoction. The messages also mentioned other notable pitchers like Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer who had made use of the blend. Despite this evidence, the defamation lawsuit was dismissed shortly after. However, the Orange County 4th District Court of Appeals reversed the superior court’s decision in February 2022, resuscitating Harkins’ case.

Courtroom Drama Averted

The trial would have potentially involved testimonies from Chris Young and Billy Eppler, the current New York Mets general manager and former Angels GM who notified Harkins of his termination. However, both sides managed to bridge their differences in the final days leading up to the trial. As a result, the trial was avoided, and the settlement was reached.

The lengthy legal battle between Brian Harkins and the Los Angeles Angels has finally come to an end. While details of the settlement remain private, it marks a resolution for Harkins after being fired for his involvement in distributing foreign substances to players. This case has shed light on the widespread use of illegal substances in baseball and the challenges that the sport faces in maintaining fairness and integrity.

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