Controversy Surrounds The Falmouth Commodores Dismissal Of Jeff Trundy

The Falmouth Commodores on Friday announced the hiring of a new manager for the 2012 season, naming Dan Donato as their new skipper. The announcement was made in an e-mail by General Manager Bob Clark that was sent to local media outlets and later posted on the team’s website.

The e-mail stated that “Coach (Donato), a graduate of Catholic Memorial High School as well as Boston University, comes to us from the Dexter School in Brookline MA where he is the Associate Director of Admissions as well as the Head Hockey and Baseball Coach. Dan was also a former Commodore that went on to a career in baseball with the New York Yankees and the Tampa Bay Devil Rays.”

What the e-mail did not mention was, that in hiring a new coach, the organization was also firing longtime manager Jeff Trundy. Trundy joined the Falmouth Commodores organization as an assistant coach 17 years ago and has been the team’s head coach for 14 years. During that time the Commodores made three trips to the Cape League championship series, falling in the finals in 2004, 2007 and 2011. He was named the winner of the Mike Curran Award, as Manager of the Year, in 2004.

Several members of the Falmouth Commodores board of directors have come out in opposition to the firing of Trundy and hiring of Donato. In addition, former players from across the country have taken to Facebook and Twitter to offer support to the coach, who had been the longest tenured member of the organization. Commodores committee member Rob Zeida said that he heard from many former Commodores personally, and they said that they are aghast that their former skipper has been let go.

“Jeff Trundy has helped to mold the careers of hundreds of players that have gone on to success in baseball and all walks of life. To see him dismissed in this manner is heartbreaking,” Zeida said.

Breaking The News

Thursday evening Clark left a voice message for Trundy, and the coach said that he returned the call after a night out for pizza with his wife. “The first thing he said was ‘I’m hiring a new coaching staff.’ To be honest, I was shocked. It set me back to the point where I couldn’t say anything,” Trundy said. “He said that ‘I just don’t think that you and me jelled’.”

Jeff Trundy has helped to mold the careers of hundreds of players that have gone on to success in baseball and all walks of life. To see him dismissed in this manner is heartbreaking. 

                                                 Rob Zeida

After 14 years as the head coach of the team, Trundy said that he felt he deserved a better explanation. “I think I’m entitled, after all of the years, for reasons [for being let go],” he said.

Clark said yesterday that he simply felt that it was time for the Commodores to go in a different direction. “I just thought that it was time,” Clark said yesterday afternoon.

When asked to expand on his decision-making process, Clark said, “Let’s just leave it at that.”

Clark admitted that his explanation leaves more questions than answers, and said that there was “nothing at all” wrong with Trundy’s managerial style or performance. “It does lend to a lot of questions. Rather than give a million answers, I just want to give one generic answer; like anything in life, sometimes it’s time for a change,” Clark said.

A groundswell of support for Trundy has several members of the board of directors looking for answers as to why Clark, in their opinion, unilaterally pulled the trigger on the decision prior to tomorrow night’s monthly meeting of the Commodores committee at the Falmouth Rec Center.

Steve Kostas, the Commodores’ vice president, said that, on a personal level, the situation saddened him. “Jeff Trundy is, to me and my family, a person that has conducted himself as a gentleman on and off the field. He’s a credit to the coaching community, that’s how I feel. That’s what I would have said if you asked me in July, or today,” Kostas said.

Were Bylaws Subverted?

Whether or not Clark was within his rights to fire Trundy and hire Donato is a question for many. Article V of the Commodores team bylaws state “The Board of Directors will control the assets and finances of The Club, elect officers, make general policy and business decisions of The Club, offer advice and consent to the appointment of coaches and other staff members.” Also, in Article VIII, in regard to the general manager’s responsibilities, the GM has the authority to “appoint the coaches of the team and any other full or part-time staff members, whether volunteer or paid, subject to the advice and consent of the board.”

Nowhere under his responsibilities is he granted the authority to dismiss a coach that is under contract without the advice and consent of the board.

Clark said that he did not act until he was certain that he had the support of the board. “I talked to people on my board, I felt that I had their support. I spoke with members of the executive board, lifetime members of the board and five or six other board members,” Clark said.

The first thing he said was ‘I’m hiring a new coaching staff.’ To be honest, I was shocked. It set me back to the point where I couldn’t say anything.

                                                       Jeff Trundy

According to the Commodores website, the executive board consists of five members, including Clark’s wife, the team’s president, Christine Clark. Twelve individuals are listed as members of the Commodores board of directors as well as lifetime board members Chuck Sturtevant and Al Irish. “When I felt that I had a clear majority of support, I acted quickly,” Clark said. “I understand that this is a controversial move...he’s an icon, and I agree, he’s a very well liked guy and I’m fully aware of that.

“When I knew that I had a plurality of the board, to make sure that I was in accordance with our bylaws, I acted. I have the advice and consent of the board.”

Al Irish, a lifetime member of the board of directors, said that he was not asked for his counsel on the decision to fire Trundy. “I didn’t know about this,” Irish said. “We talked last week about hiring a coach, but I thought he was talking about an assistant coach. He didn’t mention anything about Jeff Trundy.”

Irish said that he is confused as to how Trundy could have been released without a formal vote made by the Commodores board. “I would have thought that they would have had a vote of the board,” he said.

Questions Clark's Tactics

Mike White, who is the chairman of the Commodores bylaw committee, said that Clark’s handling of the situation was inappropriate. “At a board meeting, everything is on the record; when he’s basically just calling his friends and supporters on this, there’s no official minutes kept of those conversations. I know I didn’t get a call,” White said. “Was it done in a way that I’d call a fair and equitable manner? I’d say ‘no.’ Did it happen at a board meeting? No.”

It does lend to a lot of questions. Rather than give a million answers, I just want to give one generic answer; like anything in life, sometimes it’s time for a change. 

                                                       Bob Clark

Some members of the board also wondered if Clark had done his due diligence before hiring a replacement.

Clark said that he first met Donato in person two weeks ago. He said that he was put in touch with the coach through a mutual acquaintance and that they began speaking about coaching the Commodores and the sides came to an agreement. “He’s a very impressive guy,” Clark said of his team’s new manager.

Donato is the brother of Ted Donato, who played for the Boston Bruins and is currently the head coach of Harvard’s hockey team. “He comes from an iconic Boston sports family,” Clark said.

Clark said that he understands that the situation may not be a popular one with the entire organization. “(Trundy’s) a great guy, there’s no question about that and he put his heart and soul into the Commodores, there’s no question about that and I thanked him for that,” Clark said.

Kostas, who said his thoughts were his own and not those of the Commodores, said that Trundy deserved to be dealt with in a better way. “I think it’s unfortunate the way that the whole situation has been handled,” the team’s vice president said.

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