Jason English ‘just wanted to win,’ coach says

No foul play suspected after body found in river

Bonnie Belec bbelec@thetelegram.com
Published on May 1, 2014
Holy Cross catcher Mark Healey and homeplate umpire Wayne Coumeau look on as Gonzaga Vikings DH Jason English hits a line drive up the middle to drive in teammate and second baseman Mike O'Neill, 7, in this 2013 file photo. - Photo by Joe Gibbons/The Telegram

One week ago today, Jason English’s baseball coach said they were talking about stepping back onto the field to start practice for the 2014 season.

“We usually start practising this time of year and he was anxious to get going,” Troy Croft told The Telegram Wednesday after learning of the designated hitter’s death. the night before.

“He was reiterating that we’re going to win the trophy in October. We’ve been in the finals the last two years, he was a competitive person and said he was ready to do it again,” said Croft, who is also a member of the Gonzaga Vikings in the St. John’s Senior Men’s Baseball League.

He said he and English played together for about seven years.

The RNC issued a news release Tuesday evening saying it was investigating a sudden death that occurred in the water along the Virginia River walking trail in East Meadows, in the east end of St. John’s.

Around 7 p.m. RNC officers, the St. John’s Regional Fire Department and paramedics from Eastern Health responded to a call of a man in the water.

He was taken to hospital where he was pronounced dead.

English played in the St. John’s Senior Men’s Baseball League for several years and was an accomplished hitter.

On a couple of occasions he led the league as a designated hitter for the Vikings.

“He always came up big for us,” said Croft.

“My last memory was last year in the finals, we played against the Shamrocks, Jason hit two home runs in the last game and was a few feet short of a third home run. We ended up losing the finals, but he was heartbroken because he just wanted to win,” he recalled.

Despite his reputation for being a downtown brawler, and convictions of aggravated assault and two offences of failing to have his pit bull properly leashed — which resulted in the death of one dog and the mauling of another — Croft said English was a different man on the field.

“From what you hear about Jason in the media, you’d think it was a different person. Nobody had any troubles with him at the park,” he said.

“In fact, I got a call from an umpire today saying how sad it was and how respectful Jason was of the umpires, and how he would always call them ‘mister.”’

The media reports Croft referred to were about English’s involvement in the downtown scene and some of the legal and negative repercussions that came from that.

The 34-year-old once owned The Crazy Horse strip club on Duckworth Street and worked at different bars over the years.

One fight that English was involved in which led to criminal charges — as well as headlines — was on May 23, 2010, at Spin nightclub in downtown St. John’s, when he bit a piece off a man’s ear.

The injured man worked at the club as a bartender.

English was found guilty at trial and on Dec. 31, 2010, was sentenced to eight months in jail.

Less than a year later, in October 2011, he was back before a judge for an incident involving his pit bull.

English was charged and eventually found guilty of failing to tether and pen his dog under the provincial Dog Act. He was also found guilty of breaching probation.

The charges were laid after the dog escaped from English’s back garden and attacked a poodle outside Georgetown Pub in St. John’s on Oct. 6. The poodle had to be euthanized.

English was fined $200 and ordered to pay $206 in restitution to the smaller dog’s owner for the vet bill. He was also ordered to serve a year’s probation.

It was English’s second conviction under the Dog Act. In 2006, he was charged after his two pit bulls mauled an Australian shepherd at the east end of Quidi Vidi Lake.

In 2008, he pleaded guilty and was fined $200 and ordered to pay $500 restitution to the smaller dog’s owner.

The RNC reported Wednesday afternoon that its criminal investigation unit has concluded the probe into English’s death.

 “The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner has concluded that the cause of death is not suspicious in nature and no further police investigation is required,” the news release said.

“It’s sad, really,” said Croft.

“From my perspective, I know that other side of Jason, the one who loved to play ball, to be on the field and to hit the ball. I guess when he was at the park it was an escape for him. It’s all he wanted to do.”

bbelec@thetelegram.com