Jason English ‘just wanted to win,’ coach says

Bonnie Belec
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No foul play suspected after body found in river

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.

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

“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

Organizations: Gonzaga Vikings, Regional Fire Department

Geographic location: Virginia River, East Meadows, Duckworth Street

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Recent comments

  • Heartbroken Friend
    May 02, 2014 - 13:09

    Jason was fun, exciting and unapologetic for who he was, which was a very popular, big-hearted guy who didn't fear life, but rather took it by the horns. He was a big boy with a big rep, and just as often on the receiving end of people wanting to "brawl" with him, to prove something. Being accustomed to this throughout his life, he resiliently learned to hold his own. There are many people happily walking our streets who intentionally hurt and neglect others (including children and animals), would rob the eyes from your head if given the chance, and those who lie, cheat and cut down others to get what they want. These are the type of cowards that wear masks, spread hate, and make our world truly ugly. Jason, on the other hand, was always himself, made you laugh, lit up a room and had your back, if you were lucky enough to be his buddy. Jason's death is high-profile because everyone who took the time to get to know him, loved him. He was hilarious, outgoing and handsome. And he's certainly not the 1st person to brawl on George Street. He always had a plan and was destined for success. I'm going to just go out on a limb and say that realistically, owning a bar at age 28 is quite an accomplishment. Capitalizing on a perfectly legal market that exists either way, is entrepreneurial. Not criminal. As for being a "drug-dealer", Jason didn't peddle harmful chemicals and kill people with drugs, like well respected doctors and the FDA do daily to fatten their pockets. He didn't cook meth or sell crack-cocaine. His "drug dealing" was no different than what many Newfoundlanders have done at some point, to make cash in a province with limited opportunities. And I literally don't know one person who hasn't tried a recreational drug at some point, which you bought from a similar "terror". My (very timid) cat recently mauled another cat that entered his turf. He ripped this cat to shreds, practically killing it. Not because I am a criminal. But because he is an animal doing what he instinctively must. Such is the case for Jason's dogs. It was an animal doing what its instincts told it, which doesn't make Jason a crook. And for which he has payed his dues. Jason recognized an opportunity to be a better person, and got himself a trade and new career. He acknowledged his past mistakes, and wanted to grow beyond them into an honest life as a "normal person", as he jokingly called it. Like any person throughout history that made an impact, the man had a lot of courage and fight in his heart. He was certainly not fearful or passive, and would gladly defend a cause. If being tough and assertive makes someone an "absolute terror", then I guess our history books have been condoning terrorists since the beginning of time. Ignorance and self-righteousness shows clearly in the negativity I've read about him, from people who likely enjoy UFC, WWE, mob culture and violent movies, and respect the men who participate in violent entertainment. Jason was a stand-up guy. His passing has left a hole in the hearts of the many who knew him... and a void in our city, which won't be the same without him. Only 34, Jason was and is a legend, hence the publicity surrounding him. Deepest sympathies go out to his family and friends.

  • Sandi
    May 02, 2014 - 09:43

    WOW! so I have read all the articles and comments and im surprised but not shocked at the comments. Clearly all those who have ridiculed and insulted Jason have done NO WRONG, nor has anyone belonged to you people. I don't know the guy, never met the guy but I do know im not perfect and it is not my place to judge, nor is it yours. Jason is gone, so he isn't reading any of these posts, BUT HE HAS A MOTHER!!! and family. So maybe you people should think before you type and god forbid it ever be someone belonged to you bunch of judgemental idiots!!!

  • SEAN BUCKINGHAM
    May 02, 2014 - 04:30

    I WAS WONDERING IF ROBERT SMITH IS A PSEUDONYM OR A REAL ENTITY HIDING IN A CLOSET WITH A CANDLE RANDOMLY HITTING HIS KEYBOARD IN A BLOODTHIRSTY FASHION!!! DO NOT SPEAK ILL OF THE DEAD OR MAKE IDLE CHATTER AS WE ARE ALL CONNECTED AND TRYING TO STRUGGLE THRU THIS WORLD DAILY. MY SINCERE CONDOLENCES TO JASON'S FAMILY AND FRIENDS.

  • Steve Flynn
    May 01, 2014 - 21:40

    I am disgusted with these negative comments that some of you people are posting about Jason. Jason has made his mistakes, and he did screw up, but deep down he was truly a good man with a heart of gold. And where the Telegram has posted these stories about his mistakes, I do not like that.

  • Lynn
    May 01, 2014 - 18:02

    You people are monsters !!!! Yes the man made mistakes in the past but he's not the first and he won't be the last !!!!! I knew Jason and he was always a polite person and yes everyone deserves a second chance . This is someone's child and everyone should respect that and stop with the hate . Jason deserves to rest in peace now and let his loves ones mourn ... Shame on you people !!!!

  • Gord
    May 01, 2014 - 16:16

    A little insulting that the Telegram feels a criminal like English is worthy of a front page article remembering him? He was a criminal and caused a lot of grief for a lot of people. This article is a disgrace. The Telegram should have put this on the back pages, perhaps with the Justice system news.

  • Mark
    May 01, 2014 - 13:03

    The justice system isn't simply about punishment, it's also about re-rehabilitation. The media didn't mention that he went back to school to turn over a new leaf; recently graduated in fact. Nobody is making excuses for his mistakes, but he served his time. He also had much good to offer the world. Unfortunately that doesn't make for good press. Kudos to the Telegram for providing a well-rounded story.

  • Jennifer
    May 01, 2014 - 12:36

    I never personally met Jason, but my brothers played ball with Jason and I was around the field and did notice he was very polite. He may have a past, but he is someone's son. Have a heart and let his family mourn his death. Rest in Peace Jason!

  • original townie
    May 01, 2014 - 11:36

    @ Doug....totally agree. Reality is, this guy was a violent offender and thug....period! I can't see any of his victims missing him. I don't and fortunately I wasn't one. As for the coaches, I shake my head at those guys....what are you thinking, praising this guy up?

  • Craig Engish
    May 01, 2014 - 11:28

    Jason was my cousin, and I loved him. While he did some questionable things in life, they are by no means the sum of him as a person. The callous comments and reporting stemming from this tragic accident, that claimed the life of a young man, is disgusting. When your loved ones pass, and you struggle to cope with the loss, I hope you're surrounded by support and choose to remember the good things - forgoing the bad.

  • SEAN BUCKINGHAM
    May 01, 2014 - 10:52

    JUDGE NOT, LEST YE ALL SHALL BE JUDGED!! I KNEW JASON. LET HIM REST IN PEACE AS GOD IS HIS ONLY JUDGE NOW. HIS LIFE WAS CUT SHORT AND THAT SHOULD SATISFY ALL THE ANONYMOUS BLOODTHIRSTY HATERS CONTRIBUTING TO THIS COMMENTARY AS A WHOLE. IT REFLECTS OUR PITIFUL SOCIETY AS A WHOLE, UNFORTUNATELY, ESPECIALLY AS "FRIENDLY NEWFOUNDLANDERS." ANYWAY, RIP JASON ENGLISH!!!!

    • Robert Smith
      May 01, 2014 - 13:33

      Interesting that you chose to use the word "bloodthirsty" in your defense of Mr. English as that would seem to be an appropriate adjective for both he and his pit bulls.

  • Mike
    May 01, 2014 - 09:23

    I would not allow a violent offender on my baseball team.

    • Mick
      May 01, 2014 - 11:02

      And what's your team called?

    • Frankly
      May 01, 2014 - 15:17

      "The St. John's Noncriminals"

  • Doug
    May 01, 2014 - 09:22

    So all of a sudden a guy who was an absolute terror on the streets with a criminal record the length of your arm is being canonized because he swatted a ball around at St. Pat's. He did a lot more than just play ball I'm afraid. I wonder if the victims of some of his crimes think quite so highly of him. He wasn't victimized by the media, he dug the hole that his reputation was in.

  • Doug
    May 01, 2014 - 09:19

    So all of a sudden a guy who was an absolute terror on the streets with a criminal record the length of your arm is being canonized because he swatted a ball around at St. Pat's. He did a lot more than just play ball I'm afraid. I wonder if the victims of some of his crimes think quite so highly of him. He wasn't victimized by the media, he dug the hole that his reputation was in.

  • Sandy
    May 01, 2014 - 08:37

    So the moral of the story is stay out of strip clubs and play ball? Revisionist history at play.

    • RATTER 01
      May 01, 2014 - 09:35

      I guess when you die, you become a saint. When you live your life as a criminal, you die a criminal. This man was no saviour.

  • Heather
    May 01, 2014 - 06:38

    I didn't know this young man, but was so sad to hear how you reported his death. So pleased to hear his coach speak of him. This was someones child who is obviously in pain right now, please have feelings when you are reporting. What if it was your child?!?! People make mistakes.

    • guy incognito
      May 01, 2014 - 09:52

      What if it was your child that he bit and assaulted.....what if it was your dog that was killed in front of you.....

  • J
    May 01, 2014 - 05:10

    I had the opportunity to meet Jason, and happily had the chance of not knowing his past beforehand. There was so much more to him than the negative things that were reported by the media. I feel that those who judge him by his poor choices in the past did not see the whole picture and that was truly their loss. His personality and big heart that is talked about by his friends is something I can also testify to. I was very sad to hear about him on Tuesday evening. I think that it's time now for the telegram to put this story to bed. I think it's been played out enough and will only prolong the heartbreak of all of those who knew and loved him. He was a person, not a monster! He wasn't perfect but no one is perfect. He deserves to rest peacefully now, and he will be missed dearly..