Settlement reached in beaning lawsuit

Posted: Wednesday, February 06, 2002

WICHITA, Kan. -- Chicago Cubs prospect Ben Christensen settled a lawsuit Tuesday filed by Anthony Molina, the batter standing in the on-deck circle when beaned by a warmup pitch in a college game three years ago.

Molina was preparing to lead off for Evansville in game against Wichita State on April 23, 1999. Standing 24 feet from home plate, he was hit in the left eye by a fastball that he said was deliberately thrown by Christensen, who claimed Molina was timing his pitches. Molina sustained skull fractures and numerous eye injuries.

Lawyers on both sides described the settlement as ''substantial but confidential.'' Molina had sued Christensen for $2 million in damages.

The agreement was reached as jurors waited outside the courtroom for the start of trial. Molina decided to settle after Sedgwick County District Court Judge Paul Clark ruled Monday that Molina would have to prove Christensen intended to injure him -- a difficult standard to meet.

''I didn't feel we would get a fair trial in Wichita. ... It is like playing baseball at Wichita State,'' Molina said.

Christensen declined comment. His lawyer, Steve Robison, said Molina's claim of unfairness was ''ridiculous.''

''Sedgwick County has fair judges, fair juries and I am offended to hear anybody say they can't get a fair trial in Sedgwick County,'' Robison said.

Christensen, 21-1 in three years at Wichita State, was the Chicago Cubs' first-round pick in the 1999 draft. He is expected to start this year with the Triple-A Iowa Cubs.

Molina also has a lawsuit pending in federal court in Kansas City, Kan., accusing Wichita State coach Gene Stephenson and pitching coach Brent Kemnitz of negligence. Tuesday's agreement also settled the claims against Christensen in that case.

Kemnitz was suspended by the Missouri Valley Conference after admitting that he advised pitchers to throw at on-deck batters if they appeared to be timing pitches.

Ted Ayres, a lawyer for Wichita State, said last week that neither Stephenson nor Kemnitz should be liable because they work for the state and receive special legal immunities.

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