By Anika Khubchandani
WOODLAND– The jury trial of youth softball coach “Buck” Maldonado Thomas—charged with five crimes against teen ballplayers, including sexual assault—resumed here Tuesday, and another victim’s mother shared how the alleged assault by Thomas had impacted her daughter.
The mother told the Yolo County Superior Courtroom of Judge Paul Richardson that the victim was 16 years old when she and her family first met Thomas in Southern California after a tournament during the summer of 2018.
At the time, the daughter played first base, third base, and catcher for several competitive teams in the Sacramento area. Since the victim was verbally abused by one of her previous coaches, she and her family were in the process of looking for a new hitting coach.
Because of his unconventional teaching style, Major League Baseball connections, and contacts with D-1 college coaches, Thomas was recommended to the victim by another one of her coaches.
Undeterred by his “hands on approach” and “vulgar language,” the victim’s mother disclosed that her first impression of Thomas was “favorable” and she “had a good feeling” about his ability to transform her daughter into a college-level player.
As a result, the victim and her family attended a training lesson instructed by Thomas a few days later in Southern California, along with one of the victim’s teammates and her family. This other teammate was also allegedly assaulted by Thomas.
The victim’s mother trembled as she recounted to the court the advice given to her by the coach who recommended Thomas. He warned the victim’s mother to “be careful about who you trust” and to “avoid people who will take advantage of you,” as he shared a story about his wife being constantly sexually assaulted during her experience as a college-level softball player.
Since the victim’s mother respected this coach, she listened to his advice and trusted his judgment regarding defendant Thomas becoming her daughter’s hitting coach.
After the tournament in the Irvine area, the victim and her family returned home and, as a family, had several discussions about hiring Thomas.
The victim’s parents soon became aware that Thomas was traveling from his residence in Arizona to West Sacramento in early August to train and stay with their daughter’s teammate.
Since they did not want to “miss out on the opportunity” of having their daughter work with Thomas, the victim’s father took his daughter to her teammate’s house for coaching on August 1 and 3 of 2018.
After what seemed like a positive experience with Thomas at the hitting tunnel near the teammate’s house, the victim’s parents decided to hire Thomas. Part of the agreement was that the victim would have access to a boarding/training facility in Arizona.
Prior to sending her daughter to Arizona for her first training in September 2018, the victim’s mother expressed her concerns to Thomas’ wife about teenage boys also training at the same facility. Mrs. Thomas repetitively reassured her that “she would treat [the victim] like her own” and “she would not leave her side.”
The victim’s mother remained unconvinced at first, despite Mrs. Thomas’ guarantees that “everyone’s focus is baseball” and that “specific house rules prevented…sexual boyfriends and girlfriends.” Eventually, the victim’s mother gave in and sent her daughter to be coached in Arizona alone.
Her daughter returned home from the training feeling extremely exhausted and she wanted to “spend more time with her family,” which was very unusual for her. The victim’s mother described her daughter as an introvert; she is someone who “spends a lot of time in her room.”
Ever since her return from training in Arizona, the victim showered constantly and “wanted me to sleep in her room,” the victim’s mother said shakily.
The victim traveled to the Arizona facility for a second training in November of 2018. Despite her family’s financial struggles, her parents were able to send her again with monetary help from her grandfather.
Upon her second return, the victim “became more affectionate to the family” and continued to be “beyond exhausted.” Neither her mother nor father suspected any sexual abuse at the time.
It was only when a detective from the West Sacramento Police Department reached out to the victim’s mother and informed her of a crime committed against her daughter’s teammate, that she began to worry. The victim’s mother recalled that she “was at work at the time” and rushed home “in tears.”
Together, the victim’s parents sat their daughter down and told her what the detective had revealed to them. Their daughter’s initial response was “I’m fine,” and she left to go to her bedroom.
Her father left the house for a prior commitment, but her mother entered her room and sat on the bed with her daughter. “I told her, if there was ever a time to be honest, this was it,” the victim’s mother disclosed to the court.
Then, her daughter began crying and confessed, “I’m a victim, too.”
The victim’s mother broke down as her daughter admitted that “Thomas had sex with me in every way possible.” Her daughter repeatedly called herself “disgusting” and “damaged goods.” She feared that “no one would ever want to be with her again.”
Later that night, the victim’s mother left the detective a message and called again the next morning to tell him that her daughter “was a victim in West Sacramento and Arizona multiple times.”
Due to the emotional trauma experienced by the victim, she took a break from playing softball. Her mother shared that her daughter “was not emotionally able to participate fully.”
In addition, the victim’s mother had also decided to become less involved with softball and step back from her position as team manager to “prioritize her role as a mother.”
The trial reconvenes this week.
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