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Social Media Posts Raise Questions About Dante Bichette Sr. and His Blue Jays Tenure

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CONTENT WARNING: Homophobia; child abuse; domestic violence

***OPINION POST***

On Saturday, screenshots from an Instagram anonymous Q&A session by Alphonse Dante Bichette Jr. (DBJ), older brother of Toronto Blue Jays All-Star Bo Bichette (Bo) and son of former Jays coach Dante Bichette (Dante Sr.), began to circulate on social media. The screenshots used in a tweet posted by user @twitchejnave appear to be sourced from a Reddit post by u/bobichetteismydaddy entitled “Dante Bichette Jr opens up about his abusive father, Dante Bichette, and the impact it had on both him and Bo.”

@twitchejnave added a screenshot of a comment referencing Dante Sr.’s police history for domestic incidents with his wife, Marianna. I will discuss this further later in this post.

Here are the Reddit screenshots which appeared on Twitter, transcribed below.

screenshot of Instagram post from user gold_ol_dbj in response to question "Did your parents treat your brother the same as you?", transcribed below in blog postscreenshot of Instagram post from user gold_ol_dbj in response to question "Was the abuse solely towards you or did others in your family have to go through it?", transcribed below in blog postscreenshot of Instagram post from user gold_ol_dbj in response to question "Do you think your brother was as affected as much or do you think he just didn't see the abuse for what it was?", transcribed below in blog post  

Screenshot 1:

Q: Did your parents treat your brother the same as you?

A: No. They specifically stated over and over again that they would raise him differently because I turned out “too soft and too gay”.

A few times my dad went to attack my brother in a rage and I got in between every time. I bled protecting my brother from my father on multiple occasions. Earliest memory I have of this was when I was 11. It happened all the way up til the day I left at age 26

Screenshot 2:

Q: Don’t need to answer if you don’t want. I hate to hear all that happened in your past. Was the abuse solely towards you or did others in your family have go through it?:(

A: Ooop.. do a quick google search and you’ll find that my dad abused my mother as well. Shoved her into a car while she was pregnant with my brother. Hit her in the face while she was pregnant with me. It’s all there for your viewing pleasure 🙃

Famous rich white men get away with murder

Screenshot 3:

Q: I admire how strong you are even with all you’ve been through. Do you think your brother was affected as much or do you think he just didn’t see the abuse for what it was?

A: One thing that’s very important and I really want everyone to recognize is that my brother is a victim as well. Being in that environment and watching these things happen within your family, is traumatizing, especially for a little boy

These statements provide further context to the caption of an Instagram post of  DBJ’s pet dogs posted last Father’s Day.

Transcription:

Father’s Day has always been very weird for me. A day all about praising and showing love to the man that terrorized our household day in and day out. I adopted these two little babies over the past year and I can’t explain how healing it has been for me to fall in love with them as their protector, and how different fathers day is for me now that I have them. Happy Father’s Day to all the loving dads 💫

The above contrasts with Dante Sr.’s overwhelmingly positive depiction in the media as a supportive and loving father.

Michael Cuddyer as quoted by John Lott in The Athletic on August 20, 2020:

You definitely had a sense that nobody on this planet loved his kids more than Dante[.]

Mike Wilner of the Toronto Star wrote on August 28, 2021:

Admit it, you’ve been one of the people who has rolled their eyes when one of the dads rolls up in the middle of the season in full uniform, offering his fantastic hitting tips to the kids on the baseball team. Who hasn’t?

To be fair, though, not too many of those dads have hit 274 major-league home runs and been an all-star four times. Dante Bichette, father of Bo, has that pedigree.

SportsNet broadcaster Hazel Mae (@thehazelmae) on February 9, 2022:

Larry Brown on February 12, 2022 (Dante Bichette quit job with Blue Jays for great reason):

Dante’s first priority is being able to help his son, so he’s continuing to do that. Toronto probably isn’t too upset about this, because they also want Bo to be at his best whenever the labor dispute is resolved.

The rosiest portrait of the Bichettes’ family life that I have encountered comes from Joon Lee of ESPN on April 25, 2022:

Growing up with a supportive family and a famous father — 14-year major leaguer Dante — Bichette admits he didn’t encounter much stress or anxiety until his first struggles as a professional. When he did need to face down the emotions that came alongside a rise in platform and fame, he thought back to the lessons his mom, Mariana, taught him about what can be gained from speaking out.

I am suspicious of Dante Sr.’s close involvement with his younger son’s career in light of DBJ’s comments. DBJ mentioned his parents believed he was “too soft and too gay” and vowed to raise Bo “differently.” In other words, they viewed their younger son as a do-over and planned to monitor his behavior more closely.

Dante Sr. has been a very active participant in  Bo’s MLB journey. Dante Sr. initially joined the Jays as a coach for the 2020 covidball season after DBJ was released by the Nationals, one of hundreds of players to lose their jobs due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2021, Dante Sr. served the Jays as a special assistant, resigning in 2022 in order to be able to continue coaching Bo during the offseason lockout. These decisions now appear more controlling than supportive.

Dante Sr.’s police history supports DBJ’s allegations of abuse. I searched for material about Dante Sr.’s arrest and found articles from 1995 published after the high-profile arrest of NFL quarterback Warren Moon.

“Sports World and Domestic Violence”, published in the Hartford Courant on September 17, 1995:

* Colorado Rockies outfielder Dante Bichette has been involved in two incidents with his wife, Marianna. In 1992, Bichette admitted striking a pregnant Marianna, then his 19-year-old girlfriend. In 1993 police responded to a domestic dispute at Bichette’s off-season home in Palm Beach Gardens.

This appears to be the article quoted and linked in the screenshotted Reddit comment posted by @twitchejnave on Twitter.

Sports Illustrated published a detailed report by William Nack about domestic violence in professional sports on July 31, 1995, which discusses the cases of several star athletes. This appears to be the most detailed published account of Dante Sr.’s police history.

Here is the passage regarding Dante Sr.’s arrest in 1992, when then-girlfriend Marianna Peng was pregnant with DBJ (b. September 1992):

In 1992, when Mark Schrader was a deputy in the Palm Beach County, Fla., sheriff’s office in West Palm Beach, he was summoned to the scene of a domestic violence incident involving a 28-year-old major league baseball player, Alphonse Dante Bichette, and his pregnant 19-year-old girlfriend, Marianna Peng, who is now his wife. Bichette was just a year away from making it big with the Colorado Rockies, but that is not why Schrader remembers him. It was, says Schrader, a curious encounter: “I’d never heard of the guy until I arrested him. His girlfriend said he grabbed ahold of her and threw her around. She was pretty upset. I had no idea who he was until she showed me his baseball card–she had a stack of them–and asked if I wanted his signature. It seemed kind of strange.”

It was a pleasant arrest, as aggravated batteries go. “I remember him being a gentleman,” Schrader says. “He basically said what she said was true, and we took a ride to the jail. I remember seeing some of the doors to their home had been kicked in. She told me this wasn’t the first time this had happened. Like all the rest, she said she was going to leave him, but I guess she didn’t.”

Says [Sanctuary for Familes abuse survivors shelter founder Alisa] DelTufo, “The question is always, ‘Why doesn’t she leave?’ rather than ‘Why doesn’t he stop beating her?'”

Bichette’s agent, Ron Shapiro, said, “This is not a domestic abuse situation … because there’s no pattern here and no history except this one argument that occurred before they were married.”

Notably, agent Ron Shapiro is the father of Blue Jays president and CEO Mark Shapiro. What discussions, if any, did Mark have with Ron about Dante Sr. during the hiring process?

What kind of due diligence is performed for coaching and front office hires? It would appear from Rob Longley’s report for the Toronto Sun that the Jays were concerned about Dante Sr.’s fit in the Jays clubhouse as the father of one of the team’s young stars. What about his 1992 domestic violence arrest? What record, if any, turned up for Dante Sr. during the criminal record check required by the Canadian immigration authorities?

Fans often criticize Toronto sports media for being uncritical of the Blue Jays organization. Various media members responsible for covering the Jays are employed by the team’s owner, Rogers Media Inc. Which reporter will have the courage to delve into Dante Sr.’s history of violence against his partner and his oldest son’s allegations of abuse?

Featured Image: Toronto, Canada – June 28, 2016. Sign of Toronto Blue Jays by Lester Balajadia / Shutterstock.com.

What do you think?

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