The Milwaukee Milkmen, an American Association of Independent Professional Baseball team playing out of Kokomo Municipal Stadium, fired a member of its coaching staff after a video went viral depicting the coach berating a team employee at a local laundromat.
Last week it was confirmed the Milwaukee Milkmen parted ways with hitting coach CJ Thieleke after the video spread on Facebook showing him ranting at a clubhouse manager at Home Avenue Laundromat. In the video, Thieleke launches into an expletive-laden tirade directed at the team’s clubhouse manager as he helps the manager do laundry.
“It’s just unacceptable from our point of view,” said Mike Zimmerman, the owner of the Kokomo Jackrabbits and Milkmen. “We don’t always get visibility into how people act outside of the ball game. I think it’s a good lesson for everybody, whether it be the Milkmen or the Jackrabbits. They’re an extension of the community, and everybody is watching.”
The video was posted to Facebook on June 2 by an attendee at the laundromat who captured the incident on her cellphone. She claimed the videoed incident took place the evening prior.
However, the video incorrectly identified those involved as Jackrabbits employees. Team officials confirmed the two individuals worked with the Milkmen. The Milkmen announced in April the team would move its first five home series to Kokomo Municipal Stadium after weather-related construction delays occurred at its home field in Wisconsin.
The footage consisted of two videos. One depicted the two team employees arguing in the laundromat, and a second, shorter video showed them talking in the parking lot outside Home Avenue Laundromat. The video within the laundromat was about 11 minutes long, and both videos accrued around 6,000 views by last Friday. The post also had been shared nearly 200 times.
In the video from within the laundromat, Thieleke appeared to have been asked to help with the team’s laundry by the clubhouse manager. As he assisted with the laundry, Thieleke screamed about being displeased about his fellow team employee asking for help.
“I didn’t bring you here,” said Thieleke in the video. “Anthony brought you here. He picked you up in South Bend. I did not bring you here. He needs to take care of you. Not my job. Got that? Understand that? You don’t, do you? I don’t owe you.”
John Perszyk, the general manager for the Jackrabbits, joined Zimmerman in calling the situation “completely unacceptable.” He provided context for what may have led to the events at the laundromat.
“The Milkmen are in town. It was their coaching staff as well as clubhouse manager, and just some background, we are really struggling with managing four teams’ worth of laundry,” said Perszyk. “So, we have the home team laundry, the away team laundry for two weeks, and we just couldn’t keep up. So there was some stress, and things that compiled into that. But regardless, we were made aware of the situation, and he’s no longer with the company. It just shows you, you can’t treat people like that. He was held accountable.”
As for the clubhouse manager, Zimmerman applauded his work with the organization and reiterated that how he was treated went against the team’s values.
“He’s a great kid,” said Zimmerman. “He works his butt off, so we brought him from Jamestown with the Milkmen. He’s been great, but he got treated inappropriately. It’s sad to watch that stuff.”
Editor's note: Thieleke later reached out to the Perspective both to provide comment and further detail about the nature of his interactions with the clubhouse manager. A previous iteration of this article labeled the manager as developmentally disabled. Thieleke disputed the categorization.
"I need to set the record straight about an incident that was videotaped during the early morning hours at The Home Town Laundromat. I was portrayed as in sensitive to a special needs person, who is not special needs but called me to help him with the laundry. The laundry consisted of four teams of laundry," said Thieleke.
"I had a loud outburst no physical altercation no arrest just frustration. I had just got in from a bus trip from Kansas City. It was pouring rain. The team I coached was due to play at 11 a.m.
"I regret that I had a moment. I lost my cool, not at the club house attendant but at the circumstances surrounding the event. Last year I coached the Kokomo Jackrabbits. The team had the best record in the Prospect League and lost in the final game of the championship series. I lived in Kokomo, resided at the Primrose Retirement Center. I worked with the clubhouse attendant last year, and we had breakfast every morning. No aberrant, disrupted behavior from me during the 2018 season.
"The opportunity to coach the Milwaukee Milkmen from the American Association Baseball League was a dream job for me. I lost that coaching job because of the video and the published article. I am regretful and feel embarrassed about the unfortunate incident. One moment in time should not end a career; it did. Social media can be harsh and invade privacy. An apology is being given and I hope accepted. Kokomo is a charming, vital, and sports-loving city. I wish the people and the town all the best."