Harkins lawsuit linked to Gerrit Cole’s sticky stuff case heads to trial

Brian Harkins inset and Yankees righthander Gerrit Cole gets checked for sticky stuff at Fenway Park in 2021.

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A defamation lawsuit filed by former Angels club manager Brian Harkins in a sticky stuff case associated with Yankees ace Gerrit Cole is heading for a trial. As per Sam Blum’s report in The Athletic, the process of selecting a jury is set to commence on Monday in Orange County Superior Court, California.

Harkins was dismissed by the Los Angeles Angels three years ago for supplying sticky substances to major league pitchers. Gerrit Cole is one of the players named to whom he purportedly provided the homemade substance. Harkins has filed a defamation lawsuit against the Angels and MLB, which is now set to proceed to trial.

In 2021, a revelation by Brian Harkins, a former employee of the Los Angeles Angels, shed light on the widespread use of a grip concoction among major-league pitchers, including notable names like Justin Verlander.

According to court documents filed in California, the concept of “sticky stuff” had been circulating within the league as early as 2005, thanks to Angels closer Troy Percival. Once this information became known, numerous Tiger pitchers began actively seeking and using the substance. Harkins further disclosed that even Justin Verlander personally reached out to him, seeking assistance with the grip concoction. Verlander allegedly expressed his belief that the league had been turning a blind eye to ball doctoring practices for many years.

Why the defamation lawsuit by Harkins

Brian “Bubba” Harkins’ legal team aims to present arguments stating that he has been unfairly singled out as the sole individual responsible for the prevalent use of grip-enhancing substances among pitchers.

Harkins seemed to have a secure position as a visiting clubhouse attendant until MLB suddenly changed its stance on the use of sticky substances.

According to a report by The Los Angeles Times in January 2021, ex-Angels general manager Billy Eppler (now with the Mets) terminated Harkins’ employment in March, just three days after the league issued a memo to teams indicating the enforcement of a long-neglected policy prohibiting the use of illegal substances to improve a pitcher’s grip.

As reported by The Times, Harkins presented a text message from Gerrit Cole, who was with the Astros at the time, as proof that he was being used as a “public scapegoat” while MLB intensifies its crackdown on the use of foreign substances. The text message read:

“Hey Bubba, it’s Gerrit Cole, I was wondering if you could help me out with this sticky situation,” the pitcher wrote, adding a wink emoji. “We don’t see you until May, but we have some road games in April that are in cold weather places. The stuff I had last year seizes up when it gets cold.”

According to The Athletic’s report, Harkins stated in his testimony that the recipe was shared with him by the former Angels closer, Troy Percival. Besides Gerrit Cole, he also claimed to have provided the substance to other prominent pitchers, including the Mets’ Justin Verlander, and Max Scherzer, as well as Felix Hernandez, Corey Kluber, and Adam Wainwright.

The specific damages sought by Harkins remain undisclosed, and clarity on this matter may arise during the trial, which is scheduled to commence shortly after the jury selection.

Having held the position of visiting clubhouse manager with the Los Angeles Angels for an impressive 30 years, Harkins’ insights carried significant weight. His longstanding association with the team began back in 1981 when he joined as a batboy.

This revelation added fuel to the ongoing debate surrounding the use of foreign substances by pitchers in baseball. It raised questions about the extent of the practice and the league’s handling of such matters. The disclosure by Harkins sent ripples through the baseball community and triggered discussions about the integrity of the game and the potential impact on pitching performances over the years.

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