Former Rangers, Yankees pitcher John Wetteland accused of child sexual abuse

A former pitcher for the Texas Rangers and several other MLB teams has been arrested in Denton on a charge of sexual abuse of a child under 14, according to jail records.

John K. Wetteland, 52, of Trophy Club, was arrested and released on a $25,000 bond on Monday.

No other details of the arrest have been released. The Denton County Sheriff’s Office said the case is being investigated by the Bartonville Police Department. Bartonville is about 12 miles north of Trophy Club.

Bartonville Chief Bobby Dowell said the police department was contacted by the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services on Jan. 9.

“Due to the nature of the alleged offense and stage of the investigation, no further details will be released at this time,” he said.

A probable cause affidavit says Wetteland is accused of sexually assaulting a child who was known to him between 2004 and 2006. The child was under the age of 10 and the alleged assault happened three times, the document says.

Attempts by the Star-Telegram to reach Wetteland were unsuccessful.

Wetteland joined the Rangers in 1997, months after helping jump-start the New York Yankees’ dominant run in the late 1990s and early 2000s. He pitched in five games of the 1996 World Series, saving all four Yankees victories as they rallied from a 2-0 deficit to topple the Atlanta Braves for the first of their four championships over the next five seasons.

Wetteland’s set-up man was Mariano Rivera, the greatest closer in postseason history and part of the reason the Yankees didn’t re-sign Wetteland. Instead, he signed a four-year $23 million deal with the Rangers, who had lost to the Yankees in the 1996 division series. The Rangers finished in last place in 1997, but won the American League West in 1998 and 1999 before being eliminated by the Yankees in the ALDS in both seasons.

Wetteland was an All-Star in 1998 and 1999 and saved 150 games in his four seasons with the Rangers to finish his career with 330 saves. He remains the Rangers’ all-time leader in games saved, 16 more than fellow Rangers Hall of Famer Jeff Russell. The Rangers inducted Wetteland into their Hall of Fame in 2005, and he has been a part of various ceremonies on Opening Day and Hall of Fame weekend.

Following his pitching career, Wetteland became the bullpen coach for the Washington Nationals, but was fired in 2006.

According to a Washington Post report at the time, the then-manager told the newspaper that he couldn’t put up with “what he considered to be a long line of transgressions and insubordination” by Wetteland. The newspaper described Wetteland as a prankster and said he was behind a string of firecrackers that were set off in the bullpen during Grapefruit League games and in the clubhouse. Other cities had complained after playing the Nationals that there was damage to their bullpen.

Three years later, while working as a bullpen coach for the Seattle Mariners in 2009, Wetteland was hospitalized in Denton due to elevated blood pressure and heart rate, though initial reports pointed toward a mental health issue, according to the Seattle Times.

Police officers who responded to Wetteland’s home at the time said they responded to a call about a suicidal man, according to the New York Daily News. Sheriff’s Sgt. Roger Griggs told the Daily News at the time that Wetteland said he wanted help. However, the Mariners released a statement later that claimed the police report was wrong.

Wetteland considered himself a born-again Christian and reportedly had coached and taught at Liberty Christian School in Argyle more than 10 years ago. Wetteland was a part-time employee and was a pitching coach and Bible teacher, according to a spokeswoman at the school. He taught from 2007 to 2008.

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Nichole Manna is an investigative reporter for the Star-Telegram. Before moving to Fort Worth in July 2018, she covered crime and breaking news in Tennessee, North Carolina, Nebraska and Kansas. She is a 2012 graduate of Middle Tennessee State University and grew up in Florida.