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A Former Ontario Blue Jays Player Is Calling Out The Culture Of Abuse He Saw At The Team

Pat Smith's video has been viewed more than 60,000 times since he posted it.

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Late last week, the Ontario Blue Jays, an elite Canadian youth baseball program, indefinitely suspended its director of baseball operations after a former player came forward with an allegation of sexual abuse.

Ontario Blue Jays / Facebook / Via Facebook: 258592587576155

Dan Bleiwas had been with the organization since 1999, much of that time as head coach of the under-19 team. He is accused of "inappropriate sexual behaviour" dating back to 2001, according to a statement released by the team, who referred the case to the police.

“Though the alleged abuse occurred 15 years ago, we would like other potential victims to know that they will be supported in coming forward," the team’s Director of Player Development Sean Travers said.

After hearing the news, one former Ontario Blue Jays player decided he had to speak up about what he saw when he played on the team as a teenager.

Pat Smith / Facebook

In a Facebook video addressed to other former Ontario Blue Jays players, Pat Smith said he witnessed a culture of cruelty and bullying that came from Bleiwas and seeped into the behaviour of the players.

“When I was there I wasn’t a victim of sexual abuse," Smith said. "But myself and a number of my teammates were definitely victims of mental abuse while on the team.

He described Bleiwas yelling at players in front of the entire team, sometimes with parents watching. Heavier players in particular were singled out, called "fat fucks" and belittled for their weight.

“There was a culture that was a really top-down culture, of chastising players in ways that do not belong on the baseball diamond," Smith said.

Smith said players took their cues from the coaching staff and perpetuated that cruelty.

“The coaches … perpetuated a culture where players would tell other players to kill themselves, they would pee in each other’s drinks," Smith said.

In one instance, he found that one of his teammates had "jerked off into my clothing" after Bleiwas had given him access to Smith's belongings.

“All of the malicious actions, in my opinion, that happened on the team were perpetuated and encouraged by the head coach," he said.

Fuse / Getty Images

Smith would go on to play baseball at university and semi-professionally after that. He currently plays for a AA men's team in the GTA and says that only in the last few years has he learned to enjoy the game again without looking over his shoulder.

Smith's experiences on the Ontario Blue Jays were so negative that he ended up trying to forget that time as much as possible. But those memories rushed back to him when the reports about Bleiwas's alleged sexual abuse came out.

“I want any players who are seeing this to know that if you had a tough time, if things happened to you, we as a baseball community are here for you," Smith said in his video. "All of the alumni are here for you. Anybody you played with, even if they weren’t on the Ontario Blue Jays, they’re here for you.”

“Nobody is gonna think that you’re weak, or think any less of you, because you were a victim of something awful. I encourage you to come forward.”

Facebook: video.php

Smith, who played on the Ontario Blue Jays around the same time the abuse is said to have taken place, doesn't know who the victim is. He said putting forth a public show of support was the best way he could think to reach out to him.

He told BuzzFeed Canada he only expected a few dozen people to see the video, but it was widely shared among the Canadian baseball and athletic community. It has racked up more than 60,000 views since he posted it.

"I do comedy and write for television. That's my job, so most of my audience is people in comedy," he said. "I didn't think they'd watch a baseball video."

He said that since putting up the video, he has been inundated with stories of abuse from other athletes. They come from a wide swath of current and former players, in baseball as well as other sports, and bear alarming similarities. Many say they witnessed or experienced bullying on their youth teams, with some kids consistently told to kill themselves. Smith said five different men have told him about sexual abuse they suffered that they have never told anyone about.

"The conversation now is really not at all about the Ontario Blue Jays. The conversation now is about mental health in sports."

@MissStaceyMay @linzsports - support videos like this can be sent to- athletescantalk@outlook.com. ALL ARE WELCOME!

Smith said he wants to break the silence on the toxic culture that allows for such abuse. He is gathering short videos from athletes across different sports to encourage greater dialogue about bullying, abuse, and mental health.

"Athletes need to know they can talk, and that we as a sports community are behind them and it's OK. Because athletes can easily talk about a tear in their muscle, but emotion — they really have a tough time talking about that."

Ishmael Daro is a social news editor for BuzzFeed and is based in Toronto.

Contact Ishmael N. Daro at ishmael.daro@buzzfeed.com.

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