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Norwalk High Baseball Coach Ousted After Field Usage Controversy

By Loren Kopff

Hews Media Group-Sports Department has learned that Norwalk High School has parted ways with varsity baseball head coach Ruben Marquez last Thursday afternoon over a series of events that dates back to this past summer between the baseball and football coaches over the field usage at the high school.

The lower level baseball coaches were also relieved of their duties.

Marquez, who was hired in late November of 2013, received a text message on Oct. 18 from Norwalk athletic director Quoc Nguyen saying that he and Norwalk principal Dr. Ryan Smith wanted to meet with him on Oct. 20.

The meeting never developed but Marquez received another text message saying that the meeting would be changed to last Thursday at 1:15 p.m.

All parties involved talked about the usage of the baseball field and how the baseball program wasn’t supposed to use the field because the lower level football teams were practicing in the outfield of the facility. The meeting lasted less than one hour.

Nguyen said through e-mail that he couldn’t really talk about why Marquez was fired.  Smith couldn’t comment too much on the firing as well but did talk about the future of the baseball program.

“I’m not going to be able to get into too many specifics with this,” Smith said. “What I will say is that we are constantly evaluating our programs and at this point in time we felt it was best to take our program in a new direction. We’re thankful in the work that coach Marquez did.”

Marquez says he received a text message recently saying that the baseball field was going to have some maintenance work done on Oct. 28. That date was then changed to Oct. 23 and because of that, the baseball team had to play a game at Holifield Park last Saturday.

But when the playing surface at the park wasn’t safe, Marquez moved the game back to the high school. Marquez believes the final straw was the fact that the team went back to the high school and played on the baseball field even though no one was doing any maintenance on it at the time.

“My other coaches [and I] and the parents were fighting for field space because the football team was always using our left field and center field and they were never using their football field,” Marquez said. “You have 80 yards of not being used on the football field but they’re using our left field and our center field and we can’t proceed with our program and go forward with the program. For us to get better, we’re always complaining and I think too much complaining…they had had enough of it.”

But the issue doesn’t stop with just the lack of usage time on the field the baseball program got.

For several months, Marquez was constantly verbally harassed by football personnel and on many occasions, profanity-laced conversations erupted.

“The threats started in the summer time,” Marquez said. “They threatened me in a fight and violence and [started] cussing me out, telling me that, ‘you just started here and this is my school. I brought all of the kids in’. This is something we told the principal and the athletic director and they never did anything about it. So, it’s like beating a dead horse.

“Football has taken over and [the football personnel] somehow has been bullying me and threatening me during the whole summer,” Marquez added. “Now, we have taken pictures that I have sent to the principal and to Quoc, the athletic director and they don’t do anything about it. This has happened year in and year out.”

One incident took place in early July after Marquez had a meeting with Norwalk vice principal Jennifer Panagos to discuss the baseball schedule and to straighten things out. After the meeting, Marquez was watering the baseball field when someone involved with the football program walked over and asked Marquez, ‘what the (expletive) are you doing’? This was witnessed by three or four baseball players.

Following the incident, Marquez was given a warning from Smith. Two days later, Marquez was written up for his final warning by Felipe S. Ibarra, director of human resources for the Norwalk-La Mirada Unified School District.

Marquez claims that he never received a copy of the memo documenting that meeting, which was held on July 14. In the memo, it states that Marquez received a verbal warning not to engage in any unprofessional behavior to include profane language with any staff members or any students of the district.

The memo went on to state that Marquez is to engage in collaborative professional interaction with all staff members, in particular coaches of other sports with regard to sharing training space anywhere within the grounds of Norwalk High School.

“Should you violate the directives given above, I, as the director of human resources, will immediately release you from your at-will employment with the district,” Ibarra said in the memo.

Marquez says that by law, he was to receive a copy of that complaint but when asked about it, he was told that the complaint was personal and it is to remain in their files.

In addition, Marquez claims that his car was vandalized during the summer and he has proof that the football players were the culprits to that. Marquez also says that football personnel has complained to him and his coaching staff about taking pictures of the football team using the baseball field for practices.

“During the summer time, when football had their fields closed, they found football fields and places for them to practice,” Marquez said. “When they told us they were going to close the baseball field down, I asked where are we practicing and they [told us], ‘we don’t know yet, we have nowhere’.”

There was also an issue involving junior varsity baseball coach Daniel Chatman, who was told he couldn’t be on campus because he didn’t have his CPR certification card. However, Chatman had all of his credentials and he coached last season. Marquez complained to administration that there were several football coaches who had not been certified and was told that he should mind his own business.

Marquez met with a group of 15-20 parents and coaches last Friday evening to discuss the events that had transpired the previous 24 hours. During that meeting, some of the parents voiced their displeasure at the way the high school has been treating the baseball program and how they have been favoring the football program.

“They don’t really care about baseball,” one parent said. “Football is number one here. Football is their priority here at our school. They went to the final game last year, so they think, oh, football is a way to make a name for ourselves. How about if we took our kids and played baseball on their football field? How do you think they would feel?”

“Like I told the parents, we were there for the kids,” Marquez said. “Like I told the principal, we were walk-on coaches. We missed a lot of work to be there. We were there 24/7. We were there with the kids every single day. That was our number one goal; to be there with the kids and improve the program. We want this program to succeed. But it doesn’t help us if the district or the principal or the athletic director doesn’t help us out. We cannot practice and build a great program when we can’t use the baseball field.”

Bill Wenrick, a special educations teacher at Norwalk, has been hired as the new varsity baseball coach. He becomes the fourth coach in as many seasons to take over the program.

  • Shawn Williams says:

    Mr. Marquez paints himself as the martyr. Better do some more investigating if you want the truth. This guy has been getting into arguments for years. And it is always everyone else’s fault.

  • Juwaun says:

    He didn’t say how he had his baseball players throw baseballs at JV an Freshman…

  • John Thomas says:

    It’s funny how Ceniceros, who looks and acts like a Raiders fan and someone who runs up the score on people in our league is getting protected while Marquez gets the boot. Ryan Smith is not respected at Norwalk by teachers or students or others in the LMUSD and is just trying to win favor with the power sport by protecting Ceniceros. No one is claiming Marquez is a saint, but neither is Ceniceros, and their (Norwalk administration’s) silence is deafening. I have watched the way he carries himself on the sidelines against our school and heard stories of the way he treats others, and he does not win with class. The trash talking by his players, the gang bangers on their sidelines and the running up of scores will catch up to him in the form of karma. As hard as this is to say, hopefully La Mirada drops the wood on Norwalk this week. Go Matadores.

  • Chris says:

    He was fired because he was charging the kids 125 a month to play on his own travel ball team. Making it mandatory for them to play on his team if they planned on playing for Norwalk High. He wasn’t coaching to help kids, he was coaching to make money. Marquez stole all the equipment from Norwalk high once he left. L-Screens, Mats, Tee’s and Baseballs. He left them empty. He took everything for his own travel ball team that sucks! No one wants to play for him they were all forced to play. Why doesn’t the newspaper say anything on this? Where did all the equipment go Mr. Marquez?

  • James Anstine says:

    1st of all, John Thomas, you know nothing about any sports or our football program!!!! My son plays on the team and find it very disrespectful you are saying there is gang members on the team.take your racist attitude back to La Mirada. I know every kid on that team & I can personally verify theres not 1 gang member on the team. And Coach C has done a great job in rebuilding a community and creating a team thats a force to be reckoned with!!! And having coached 95% of ALL of the baseball players at Norwalk High for years and being offered the coaching job before Marquez , I know for a fact he has corrupted that program and should be prosecuted by the law!!!!It really has nothing to do with the field arrangements. John Thomas you are a sorry excuse for a human being talking about these boys and coach that way !!! I’ll make sure I tell the boys to give it their all next year so you can eat your words !!! Sincerly the father of an alledged gang member lol

    • Ralph Romero says:

      Hopefully Wenrick can turn this program around. But with the watered down talent that is at Norwalk will handcuff any coach. The talent level just isn’t there. From Guererro to Marquez who hires these guys. These coaches didn’t have any form of high level baseball coaching background. It all starts at the little league and pony level where these kids come from if they are being taught the wrong way that’s all they will know. All the good or decent talent goes to other schools such as Glenn or Gahr. Look at the 5 transfers that left to Glenn to follow a coach. Norwalk’s baseball program will struggle for years to come.

  • Dolores says:

    Marques is a crook who made more than 20,000 dollars in less than 6 months, He was paying coaches at all levels with the money he was making from our kids and sub-leasing the field to run travel ball games. There is a History with Marquez. He has stole and cheated from other community members who trusted him before. He has never had a real job and lives in fantasy world telling people he played ball for the Baltimore Orioles. He never even played varsity high school baseball. He also states he is a scout for the Baltimore Orioles. I feel bad for the parents and kids that were brain wash by this crook. He stole from our kids Loren. That is the real reason he was fired… The sad part is that you just got brain wash Loren. Do your homework and you will realize who he really is.

  • Angel says:

    Worst coach I ever had and he only coach me for summer league. Plus I owe him like 500 dollars