Walking hand in hand with his wife, John Wetteland was silent and stoic as he entered and left the Denton County Courthouse Monday morning.
The former Texas Rangers pitcher, who was a three-time All-Star and won a World Series with the New York Yankees, is no longer the dominant professional athlete with the peculiar, aloof personality. He’s a 52-year-old man accused of repeatedly molesting a kid.
The life he knows and built will likely hinge on a verdict of his peers, next year. Wetteland will either go to prison if he is convicted of sexually assaulting a child, or forever be a guy accused of doing so.
Wetteland was there as part of the process of addressing three charges of aggravated sexual assault against a child. He was charged on Jan. 15.
Wetteland did not enter a plea Monday; the judge set a date to do so for later this summer, most likely July.
“Our plea will be not guilty,” Wetteland’s lawyer Derek Adame said outside of a courtroom. “He is innocent, and he is looking forward to his day in court. ... The only thing worse than what he’s been accused of is murder. ... I can’t imagine how he is doing, but he’s holding up.”
Wetteland never formally stood before a judge Monday. He and his wife, Rebecca, went into an interview room just outside of the courtroom with his lawyer. Wetteland signed a few documents and left the courthouse.
Adame said most likely this case will go on the docket for December. Because of timing and the court load, Adame said he does not expect this case to go to trial until 2020.
‘False accusations’ against Wetteland
This is either a case of a terrible situation involving someone motivated by money, or Wetteland sexually assaulting a kid, if he is found guilty.
Wetteland was charged with sexually assaulting the same child on three occasions between 2004 and 2006. The child was 4-years-old when the incidents began.
While Wetteland did not speak to me or the other reporter present Monday, I asked Adame this question: Why would someone accuse a person of such a heinous act if it is not true?
“You’ll see the other side has plenty to gain,” Adame said. “We think all of this will be pretty clear, why these false accusations have been made.”
The inference is there is money to be made by accusing Wetteland, who made more than $33 million during his 11-year MLB career.
Adame specifically mentioned the time lapse of the allegation. How can you prove something that happened 15 years ago?
If Wetteland is innocent, those who accused him defy reason and merit special punishment.
If Wetteland is guilty, he is the lowest form.
A peculiar background
The last time I saw John Wetteland, he appeared at the 2001 Texas Rangers winter banquet to accept an award. He had retired from the game in 2000, at 33.
Before a large audience at the Arlington Convention Center, Wetteland spoke of his desire to step away from the game; he referenced a silly conversation between his daughter and her friend in the backseat of a car while he drove. He didn’t want to miss those moments.
Wetteland was hired to be the bullpen coach of the Washington Nationals in 2006. Nationals manager Frank Robinson fired Wetteland after only six months. Robinson, according to a story in The Washington Post, was sick of Wetteland’s penchant for encouraging pranks and “fooling around.”
He worked the next year as a Bible teacher and assistant baseball coach at Liberty Christian in Argyle.
Wetteland was hired by the Seattle Mariners as a bullpen coach in 2008. He lasted three seasons for the Mariners before the staff was changed.
As a pitcher with the Yankees, Wetteland was the closer while his setup man was Mariano Rivera, who went on to become the best relief pitcher in the history of the game.
In 1996, Wetteland was the World Series MVP as he was the most dominant reliever in baseball.
Wetteland arrived to the Rangers as a coveted free agent from the Yankees. He pitched for the Rangers from 1997 to 2000. He is one of the best relief pitchers in the history of the Rangers.
At least with the Texas Rangers, Wetteland also had a terrible reputation among members of the media who covered the team. He was known to be antagonistic and a condescending bully for no reason.
Some members of the front office found him to be difficult.
He was also a devout Christian, much like his Rangers’ teammate, outfielder Chad Curtis. The pair were on the same Rangers’ team in 2000, and both could, and would, recite specific passages from the Bible.
In 2013 Curtis was sentenced to seven to 15 years for molesting teenage girls at the high school where he was a coach.
Wetteland is a member of the Texas Rangers Hall of Fame. Rangers spokesman John Blake said because this is an ongoing criminal case, the club has no comment.
When John Wetteland walked into the Denton County Courthouse Monday morning, his baseball career was irrelevant.
He was a 52-year-old guy in a legal fight that will prove he is wrongly accused, or he is the lowest form.