ATLANTA — The Braves are returning to Atlanta with momentum from a strong finish to a road trip but an ugly new scandal attached to their pitching coach.
Roger McDowell apologized after Wednesday night’s 7-0 win at San Diego in response to allegations from a fan that the pitching coach made homophobic comments, crude sexual gestures and threats before a game in San Francisco last weekend.
Commissioner Bud Selig called the allegations “very troubling” on Wednesday and said he is awaiting a report from the Braves before deciding how to proceed.
It’s possible McDowell could face a suspension or even stronger punishment, possibly forcing Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez to find a fill-in pitching coach.
The Braves (13-13) won five of their last six games on the 10-game road trip to bring a .500 record to Atlanta.
Atlanta was off on Thursday and will open a weekend series against St. Louis at Turner Field on Friday night.
Justin Quinn, 33, of Fresno said McDowell’s comments came in Saturday’s pregame batting practice at AT&T Park in San Francisco. Quinn said he attended the game with his wife and 9-year-old twin daughters when McDowell said to three men in the stands “Are you guys a homo couple or a threesome?”
Quinn said McDowell made crude sexual gestures with his hips and a bat.
Quinn said he shouted to McDowell, “Hey there are kids out here” and the coach replied that kids don’t belong at a baseball park. Quinn said McDowell picked up a bat, walked up to Quinn and asked him, “How much are your teeth worth?”
Quinn made his allegations at the Los Angeles office of attorney Gloria Allred.
McDowell’s apology came in a statement.
“I am deeply sorry that I responded to the heckling fans in San Francisco on Saturday,” McDowell said. “I apologize to everyone for my actions.”
Braves general manager Frank Wren declined to comment to The Associated Press on Thursday. Gonzalez did not respond to requests for a comment.
The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation said McDowell’s apology is only a start.
“The Atlanta Braves and Major League Baseball must take real disciplinary action and send the message that anti-gay slurs have no place in sports,” said GLAAD president Jarrett Barrios. “Professional sporting events should be an environment that all fans and families can enjoy, not a place where children are exposed to violent threats and discriminatory language.”