Once a rising star, Miami’s ‘Lazer’ Collazo now a casualty of steroid scandal
08/05/2014 5:32 PM
08/05/2014 9:03 PM
By all accounts, Lazaro “Lazer” Collazo — who was told Tuesday that he will be arrested in connection with a South Florida clinic’s illegal distribution of performance-enhancing drugs — was once a rising star in the college baseball coaching ranks.
At 26, the former relief pitcher on the University of Miami’s 1985 national championship team became the youngest assistant coach ever hired by legendary former UM baseball coach Ron Fraser.
In 1991, Hall of Fame pitcher Jim Palmer hired Collazo to help him launch a comeback attempt. Two years later, Collazo was named pitching coach of the U.S. senior national team.
But Collazo suffered two embarrassing career setbacks: an involuntary departure from UM in 2003 after an NCAA investigation uncovered violations directly tied to him; and a 2005 resignation from Gulliver Prep in Miami after he pulled down his pants in an angry tirade in front of his players.
On Tuesday, Collazo was one of 10 people told he would be arrested after a two-year investigation into illegal drug distribution.
The other nine were arrested Tuesday and appeared in U.S. District Court, but Collazo was not arrested because he is in the hospital after being injured trying to break up a fight between two dogs, according to his attorney, John Ruiz. The injury required surgery earlier this week.
A federal Drug Enforcement Administration official visited Collazo in the hospital Tuesday and told him he would be arrested when he is released from the hospital in four or five days, Ruiz said.
The charge against Collazo: conspiring to distribute testosterone.
Ruiz said his client would plead not guilty.
Tony Bosch, founder of the defunct anti-aging clinic Biogenesis, told prosecutors that he gave performance-enhancing drugs to 18 boys who were 15 to 17 years old, and that Collazo and Yuri Sucart, the cousin of suspended New York Yankees star Alex Rodriguez, recruited high school athletes for him.
Bosch and Sucart were arrested Tuesday. Ruiz said Collazo, 50, never worked for Bosch and never recruited players for Bosch.
For the past few years, Collazo has been an instructor at Miami-based HardBall Baseball Academy, which offers “intensive fundamental training” for players ages 7 to 18. Authorities have not said whether he brought any of those players to Bosch.
A man identifying himself as “Lazer” answered Collazo’s phone Tuesday, but hung up after a Miami Herald reporter identified himself. Former UM second baseman Mike Tosar, identified as the owner of HardBall Baseball Academy on its website, declined to comment about Collazo.
Collazo had a small role on UM’s 1985 championship team, pitching 9 2/3 innings over eight games. But Fraser, the iconic UM coach who died last year, saw potential in Collazo, and hired him as an assistant coach.
Collazo spent 17 seasons as UM’s pitching coach, his tenure interrupted only by a one-year stint on Florida State’s coaching staff in 1992.
But Collazo’s UM career began to unravel in 1999 when an anonymous source contacted the athletic department regarding a sports club/conditioning program co-owned by Collazo.
UM began an investigation that determined the sports club had allowed high school prospects to use athletic department training facilities and participate in activities that demonstrated their athletic abilities. Both violate NCAA rules.
Those and other violations — including giving boat rides to recruits on Biscayne Bay — resulted in UM’s baseball program being placed on probation for two years and the loss of four scholarships.
Less than a year later, Collazo took a job as baseball coach at Miami’s Gulliver Prep, but resigned in May 2005, seven weeks after a police report indicated he had dropped his pants in front of players in the locker room to make a statement after a loss to Florida Christian.
According to a Coral Gables police report, Collazo “pointed to his penis, testicles and asked the team if they had a set of these or were they equipped with a vagina.”
No criminal charges were filed. Gulliver Prep said at the time that Collazo “acted in a highly inappropriate manner” but added that he “consistently demonstrated exceptional leadership as both a coach and administrator” during his two years at the school.
At the time, some Gulliver parents complained, saying the school should have moved faster and more forcefully.
Colllazo said at the time that he was “not going to coach any more at the high school or college level. I am going to stay and work at my Hardball Academy, and that’s all I have to say.”
But a few months later, Collazo changed his mind. Lelo Prado, a longtime friend, hired him as coach at Louisville, and Collazo then accompanied Prado to the University of South Florida a year later.
“He’s been loyal to me. Our families go back to Cuba,” Prado told the St. Petersburg Times in 2006. “He got a raw deal at Miami. He took a hit. I knew him, I knew the family. He’s with me because he’s a great pitching coach.”
Collazo left USF in 2010, citing family reasons. “It’s been 26 years that it’s always been about me. It’s time to dedicate time to my wife and kids,” he said at the time.
He then resumed working at his baseball academy, which says on its website that it builds “faster, stronger, explosive athletes” and boasts of sending 200 players to college and professional teams.
A former clinic employee told ESPN two years ago that he informed South Florida-based DEA agents about teenagers being given performance-enhancing drugs and cited Collazo’s involvement.
“I know he [Collazo] used to come in and pick up medicines for the kids,” the former employee said. “I just know because the nurse mentioned to me that the father picks up HGH [human growth hormone] for the kids. For the sons. She didn’t say that they were minors or anything.”
Collazo previously told ESPN that Bosch did not see his sons and he was unaware of Bosch prescribing performance-enhancing drugs.