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College baseball coach resigns after illegal communication devices found in players' helmets, per report

A junior college baseball coach has resigned after umpires found illegal communication devices in two of his players' helmets, according to the Cherry Hill Courier-Post.

Rodney Velardi was in his 13th season of coaching Atlantic Cape Community College in New Jersey when an opposing coach, Rob Valli of Rowan College Gloucester County, became suspicious of the team's plate discipline.

The drama reportedly began when Rowan College pitcher Ethan Dodd approached his coaches to see if he could've been tipping his pitches after an 11-6 loss. Valli said the team dismissed his concerns but noticed during a doubleheader the next day, on April 22, that Atlantic Cape was swinging aggressively and making great reads on the basepaths.

Later, Rowan College first baseman Felix Diaz told Valli that he could hear a voice coming out of the other players' helmets during the first inning.

From the Courier-Post:

“I didn’t believe it,” Valli said. “I just though, nah. I didn’t believe it. I didn’t not believe him, but for that sophisticated of cheating, I just didn’t think they would do it. I didn’t think they would do it. For me, I wasn’t going to go right up there in the first inning. We had to confirm that’s what it was. So, second time up, those same guys got on, and he was confirming with me the whole time. Once those guys got on, he’s saying I hear it. I hear it.”

Valli asked an umpire to check the helmets, and lo and behold, both baserunners had earpieces in their helmets, which are explicitly forbidden by NCAA rules except in catcher helmets.

Atlantic Cape Community College reportedly took sign-stealing to a new level. (Getty Images)
Atlantic Cape Community College reportedly took sign-stealing to a new level. (Getty Images) (Ed Wolfstein via Getty Images)

Play was reportedly stopped, and the earpieces were removed from the helmets, but no players or coaches were ejected. Valli also insisted that a camera in center field be removed:

“They had a center-field camera, which I wasn’t watching the stream, but the center-field camera, they can see in, they can see the catcher, they can see the signs,” Valli said. “Velardi, in his dugout, had an iPad in his hands, so my assumption, and I don’t know if it’s true or not, my assumption was he was using the iPad to watch the livestream, the center-field camera, and looking into the catcher’s signs. Whether he did or not, who could prove or say, but he had an iPad in the dugout, and you’re not allowed to do that.”

The system sounds not unlike the one the Houston Astros rode to infamy, except instead of using a trash can to transmit rudimentary noises, the Atlantic Cape team seems to have been transmitting pitch signals directly to batters while watching a center-field feed.

Rowan College ended up winning the game, and Velardi was suspended two games each by his school and the NJCAA region. Eight days after the game, he resigned.

That might put a damper on Atlantic Cape's playoff run, which it starts Saturday as a No. 5 seed in its regional tournament.