Editor's Note: This story includes graphic descriptions of sexual misconduct allegations.
Former MLB shortstop Omar Vizquel is being sued for allegedly sexually harassing a batboy, who has autism, while he was manager of the Birmingham Barons, the Chicago White Sox's Double-A affiliate. The Barons, the White Sox and the Chisox Corporation are all mentioned as defendants in the complaint filed Friday in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Alabama, Southern Division.
The lawsuit accuses Vizquel of "sexually aggressive behavior" and "at least five occasions" where he "deliberately exposed his erect or partially erect penis" to the man, 25, while also demanding he wash his back. The worker "humiliated, intimidated, and frightened of what would happen if he disobeyed ... complied with Vizquel's demand," per the lawsuit.
The lawsuit claims that after a game on Aug. 22, 2019, Vizquel came out of a shower naked, handed him a bar of soap and said, "Wash my damn back!"
According to the complaint, Vizquel told the worker that he was sexually interested in men, but the worker made it clear he had no interest in a sexual relationship with Vizquel. Still, as part of his duties, the batboy had to constantly complete tasks that brought him to the coaches' office and shower area.
One of these tasks included stocking the refrigerator with Vizquel's favorite beer. The lawsuit claimed on at least five occasions, a partially undressed Vizquel approached the batboy from behind while he was stocking the refrigerator and tried to have "normal" conversations with him. During these conversations, Vizquel would allegedly expose his partial or fully erect penis to the batboy “showing that his purpose in exposing himself was to obtain sexual gratification.”
When the batboy informed multiple Barons staff members that he was forced to wash Vizquel's back, they laughed and told him, "Everything that happens in the clubhouse stays in the clubhouse," per the complaint.
The plaintiff, who will not be named because they are a potential victim of sexual harassment, “has substantial impairments in processing information, handling stressful situations, successfully maintaining interpersonal relations, and in activities such as driving and working,” according to the complaint. The worker is accusing the White Sox and Barons of violating the Americans With Disabilities Act and seeks back pay and damages.
The complaint mentions that the batboy had a difficult childhood and was bullied because of his autism, but when he was hired by the Barons in 2019 he “felt for one of the first times in his life that he was part of a team.” He also considered Vizquel a "friend."
Vizquel was suspended and investigated by the White Sox in 2019 and eventually fired that September. The lawsuit alleges that the White Sox had “actual or presumed” knowledge of similar events involving Vizquel.
"After first learning of an alleged incident in late August 2019, the Chicago White Sox conducted an internal investigation that resulted in the termination of the organization's relationship with Omar Vizquel," the White Sox said in a statement, per ESPN. "Because this is active litigation, at this time the White Sox will not comment further regarding the allegations included in this lawsuit."
The complaint also mentioned that in 2015 a Tigers batboy tweeted "Omar Vizquel told me first day batboys have to clean the coaches backs in the showers.” Vizquel was the first base coach for the Tigers from 2013 to 2017. The Detroit batboy later told The Athletic that he thought Vizquel's comment was a joke and did not wash his back.
In 2020, Vizquel's wife accused him of physically abusing her on multiple occasions. He was arrested once but not prosecuted and Vizquel has denied the abuse. He has not been employed in MLB since being fired from the White Sox but was fired last week as manager of the Tijuana Bulls in the Mexican Baseball League after two seasons.
Vizquel played for 24 seasons in the majors and has been part of the Hall of Fame ballot for four years. He received 52.6 percent of the votes in 2020, but experienced a slight drop to 49.1 percent after his wife's allegations emerged.