While players in Mesa’s Matt Williams Baseball youth league slug it out today on the fall season’s final day, the league’s cofounders are engaged in another American pastime — in civil court.
Mesa’s Matt Williams Baseball league and its brainchild, Larry Merrix, are the subject of a lawsuit filed in Maricopa County Superior Court by league cofounder David Garcia, who claims the league owes him $9,000.
There is also a Matt Williams league in Chandler that is not a party to the lawsuit.
Merrix and David Garcia met in little league about eight years ago. Merrix was a volunteer, Garcia a coach.
In 2002, Merrix decided to start the now three-yearold Mesa branch of the Matt Williams Baseball League, and he asked Garcia to help out. The men also started B&C Umpire Association together in 2004.
At that point, the two were still getting along.
But their relationship deteriorated when Merrix began to suspect Garcia of stealing money from the umpire business, and in late September he filed a report with the Mesa Police Department accusing Garcia of theft.
Mesa police Sgt. Chuck Trapani said they’ve recommended that the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office file felony theft charges against Garcia.
However, Garcia said he’s the one who has lost money.
Garcia filed the $9,000 civil lawsuit against Merrix and the league Oct. 18, explaining that a friend of his, Linda Coble, lent money to the league about a year ago when it was low on funds. Garcia said he and Merrix repaid Coble — with shares of the umpire business worth $20,000 — in June 2006.
Thus, Garcia said the league owes him half that amount but has only paid back $1,000.
But Coble said the money she contributed to the league was a donation, which she asked Garcia to make for her when he was managing her money while she was sick. Although she is a part owner of B&C Umpire, Coble said she got those shares by investing in the company.
Merrix would not comment on the lawsuit other than to say it is “frivolous” and “retaliatory.”
Despite the founders’ feud, league coaches and parents say it has been business as usual on the baseball fields.
Yankees team manager and coach Dominick Calise said Merrix provides everything the players need, and that the season has gone well. “Whatever is going on, Larry does not bring it to the level of the kids,” he said.
Parents echoed Calise’s point of view.
Cubs team father Scott Childress said his sons have been playing in the Matt Williams league since it began three years ago. Childress said this year has been the best so far.
Any issues the league is having, he said, are “not affecting the fields or umpires, and that’s all that matters.”