Texts reveal animosity on MSU softball team

Tony Paul and Matt Charboneau
The Detroit News

In a 28-page Michigan State Police report obtained by The Detroit News late Monday, text messages showed a mutual dislike between Michigan State softball coaches and player Alyssa McBride, while assistant Jessica Bograkos states she's hit "hundreds of players" over the years during batting practice.

The investigation into the conduct of head coach Jacquie Joseph and Bograkos is closed and has been forwarded to two county prosecutors, who are reviewing the allegations and will determine what, if any, charges are filed.

McBride, an outfielder who completed her eligibility in early May, alleges Joseph and Bograkos hatched a plan to have Bograkos intentionally hit her with pitches during batting practice.

McBride was hit before a game at Central Michigan on April 29, and again before the season finale at Michigan State on May 3, both after she made disparaging statements about the program to a reporter that were relayed to coaches.

Last week, Joseph issued a statement calling the allegations "categorically untrue." Bograkos has not issued a statement, although her attorneys sent a letter to McBride and her stepfather, Mike Gillette, a former University of Michigan place kicker, demanding they cease allegations, which he described as defamatory and false.

The case is in the hands of Ingham and Isabella county prosecutors, and Michigan State officials have launched their own investigation, hiring an outside law firm.

After a 16-1 loss to Notre Dame on April 28, McBride told a reporter in an off-the-record conversation she wished she'd never come to Michigan State, which was 66-140 in her four years. According to the police report, those comments got back to softball sports information director Jamie Baldwin, who shared them with Joseph. Joseph then requested McBride visit her in her office the following day before the trip to Mount Pleasant.

State police obtained specific text messages from cellphones belonging to Joseph and Bograkos after a warrant was approved.

"What was her intent? Was she regretful?" an unknown person texted Joseph on April 28, according to the report. It appears the name of the sender was redacted from the police report.

"Did u make her feel like an immature idiot? Did she understand?" the same person texted.

"Not regretful. Admitted she said it but made up lots of stories as to what she meant. The (conversation) did not go long (because) my admin is worried. I can explain," Joseph texted.

"Did you ask her if she wants to leave?" the unknown person texted.

"Not starting her today," Joseph responded.

"Did ask. She said she wanted to play," Joseph added.

McBride, the team's leader in batting average and on-base percentage, did not start against Central Michigan but did take batting practice. Several pitches in, Bograkos threw one up and in that hit McBride.

Sydney Heath, who played one year at Michigan State but is transferring to Central Michigan, told police she witnessed the pitch. She said she heard Bograkos say "sorry." McBride told The News last week Bograkos said nothing.

After the game, McBride, from the back of the bus, texted team manager Benjamin Hayden, who was at the front of the bus. She told Hayden that Bograkos hit her during batting practice.

Hayden responded to McBride, "Coach J told her to."

Hayden told investigators he was sitting in the third row of the bus, two rows and about 5-7 feet behind Bograkos and Joseph on the way to Central Michigan. He told police the same story he told The News: He had overheard Joseph telling Bograkos she "can hit her" because if Joseph did it, it would be considered "coach retaliation." Hayden told police that, at first, he didn't know whom the coaches were talking about.

According to the report, Hayden texted McBride the following during their conversation between 7:26-7:53 p.m.:

"I wish my phone was recording."

"They'd be fired in a heartbeat."

"They're gonna get canned for that."

"I'm serious 'lyss."

"Oh I've been waiting for this."

McBride responded to that last one: "I Just want her fired so no one gets treated as bad as I did."

Hayden told The News last week he wished he hadn't heard what he heard, and he told police the same thing.

McBride didn't start the next two games at home against Maryland, but came in as a pinch-hitter. Before the season finale May 3 against Maryland, McBride got hit by Bograkos again, but this pitch came toward her head, and she was able to get her arms up. The pitch left a big bruise and swelling. Kristina Zalewski told police that pitch was thrown "much faster" than Bograkos' other pitches that day.

Jim Goranson, father of Michigan State player Dani, was behind the cage when McBride got hit, and she he heard Joseph said, "Hey, you OK?" to McBride, but nothing from Bograkos. McBride told The News she didn't hear Joseph say anything.

The next day, Bograkos was texted from an unknown contact, calling the saga with McBride "crazy stupid drama."

The recipient made a comment about Gillette, saying "Did dad get crazy again." The recipient wrote, "He needs a tranquilizer," to which Bograkos responded, "But they're gone now, THANK GOD."

The unknown person texted, "THANK GOD!" to which Bograkos responded "Haha! Yes he does. The whole family does, including ALYSSA."

Bograkos was interviewed by Chuck Christensen of the Michigan State Police, and said she has hit "hundreds of players" during her seven years as a Michigan State assistant. She was an All-American pitcher for the Spartans, as Jessica Beech.

During the interview, Bograkos recalled a batting practice incident years ago when Kelly Confer broke her jaw. That bothered her, she told police.

Zalewski told police Bograkos, who hit 16 batters in 4711/3 innings during her college career, was an accurate pitcher. Goranson said she's never been hit by a pitch from Bograkos; same with Heath.

Of the 11 other players interviewed by Christensen, nine said they'd been hit during batting practice. One was Sarah Gutnecht, who told police she didn't remember anyone being hit before the Central Michigan game, though she was "not sure." Gutnecht was in McBride's hitting group.

Bograkos told police the conversation on the bus about intentionally hitting McBride never happened, there or elsewhere.

Joseph was not interviewed by state police. The reason is unclear.

Christensen hasn't returned several calls from The News in the last three days.