The RailCats on Monday released former Portage star Tony Cheky after his arrest over the weekend during the team’s series in St. Paul, Minnesota.
The 24-year-old Cheky, who also was a four-year starter at Michigan State after graduating from Portage in 2011, was charged with third degree assault with substantial bodily harm, according to Ramsey County court records. The felony charge carries a maximum sentence of five years or a $10,000 fine, or both, according to records. Bail was set at $40,000.
According to records, St. Paul police responded at about 1:45 a.m. Sunday to a reported assault at the InterContinental Saint Paul Riverfront hotel, where the RailCats were staying.
Cheky, who has played for the RailCats for at least part of every season since 2015, could not immediately be reached for comment Monday.
After overcoming a series of injuries during his career, Cheky this season was hitting a team-high .354, third in the American Association, in 33 games. He also was third on the team in both runs (24) and RBIs (19), hit his first professional homer and had six stolen bases.
Cheky had been expected to represent the RailCats in the league’s All-Star game.
RailCats manager Greg Tagert has known Cheky for three years, and the two have developed a close relationship. Tagert called Cheky “the face of the franchise and clearly the best player on our team.”
But there was no “gray area” in this situation.
“This was an easy decision,” Tagert said. “Tony put himself in a position that gave the club no other choice. It’s unfortunate.
“Tony will no longer wear a RailCat uniform as long as I’m managing here.”
The alleged victim told police he had been attending a wedding reception at the hotel when a man he did not know punched him in the face, according to records. His next memory was waking up on the floor with a bloody nose and painful headache.
An examination of the alleged victim at a local hospital revealed a fractured nasal bridge and a closed head injury, according to records.
Hotel employees and other wedding guests said one man was punched several times before the other man was pulled away by bystanders, according to records. Hotel video surveillance shows the alleged assailant also kicking the alleged victim in the head.
Tagert has a reputation for running a disciplined clubhouse.
“There are four or five clubs in this league, maybe six, that set a standard of winning on the field as the highest priority — the one across the diamond (Fargo-Moorhead), ourselves, Winnipeg, Wichita, you can go down the list,” Tagert said. “But nobody puts a stronger emphasis on what happens off the field and in that clubhouse than we do. It’s a strong reminder to our players that we absolutely mean it.
“I like Tony. He’s a passionate young man from a good family. But unfortunately when somebody does something, there’s going to be consequences.”
Tagert has released players for lesser “indiscretions,” including some he second-guessed.
“I’ve made a lot of decisions I’ve regretted over a lifetime at age 54,” Tagert said. “But this is not one of them. This was disturbing enough for me, it was not a decision I had to think about.
“We’ll move forward with this group here and try to set out to accomplish what we always try to accomplish. But we won’t do it with sacrificing that character.”
Tagert informed team owner Pat Salvi and general manager Brian Lyter of his decision, and they “fully” supported him.
“We handled it appropriately,” Salvi said. “There was no alternative but to release him. It’s not the kind of situation that’s so life-altering he can’t get past this. We wish him well.”
Salvi addressed the team in the clubhouse before Monday night’s game at the Steel Yard against Fargo.
“I wanted them to know that we as an organization don’t abandon you at the first sign of something going bad,” Salvi said. “We typically would have your back. But the circumstances in this particular case were such that it was the right thing to do, for the league and the organization. As difficult as it was, we had to do it.”