Lazaro “Lazer” Collazo has faced more than his share of opposition and difficulty during his quarter century coaching baseball, but the Hardball Baseball Academy coach maintains that he stands today stronger than ever.
Collazo first made history as a relief pitcher on the 1985 University of Miami national championship team. At 26 years old, he parlayed his expertise into an 18-season tenure as the youngest assistant coach ever hired by former UM coach Ron Fraser.
In 1991, he was hired by Hall of Fame pitcher Jim Palmer to help launch a comeback. Following a year’s stint coaching at Florida State University, he made history again in 1993 as the only collegiate assistant coach to join the U.S. senior national team.
But in 1999, anonymous sources drew scrutiny to Collazo’s UM sports and conditioning program. He resigned in 2003 following an NCAA investigation.
“These allegations were all just a witch hunt,” he said. “At the time, I was doing my Hardball Baseball Academy. They said I couldn’t have players from UM coaching there despite a rule called the ‘club sport rule’ stating you can as long as coaches get paid and aren’t scholarship players. They also said we were recruiting for UM, despite the fact that these kids were 12 and 13 years old. How can you be recruiting a kid that isn’t even in high school? The president of the NCAA infractions committee, Tom Yeager, was upset this was even brought up. He said, ‘There’s nothing here.
Why are we here?’ I was found to have no fault and have a letter proving I wasn’t charged or thrown out of Division I baseball.”
Collazo soon was hired by Gulliver Preparatory Academy and led the varsity baseball team to a state championship in 2004. However, a locker room tirade in 2005 during which he challenged his players’ “testicular fortitude” by taking off his pants prompted his departure from the school.
“This wasn’t a one-on-one thing; it was the whole team — 32 players and all four coaches,” he said. “I took of my pants and told the players, ‘You have no balls.’ We were talking about a loss the previous night and I was pissed.”
He maintains this incident was blown out of proportion by his opportunistic coaching staff and the media.
“One of the assistant coaches, Charlie Gonzalez, made a police report with another coach because they wanted my job,” he said. “But if you do that in college, do you think they’re going to say anything about that? Absolutely not.
We’re all men and that happens at every high school and college-level program. And though this story is going to follow me around forever, athletic directors who looked into it saw that it was nothing. I wasn’t charged with anything and they honestly laugh about it.”
Collazo landed on his feet, securing a oneyear coaching gig at University of Louisville immediately after leaving Gulliver, while preserving his relationship with Miami Hardball. In 2007, he accepted a coaching position at the University of South Florida, where he stayed until 2010.
In August 2014, his reputation came under fire again when he was one of 10 people accused of participating in illegal drug distribution with Biogenesis, an anti-aging clinic co-owned by Anthony Bosch and Carlos Acevedo that distributed performance enhancers to 18 minors between the ages of 15 and 17 and to professional athletes including Alex Rodriguez and Ryan Braun.
Collazo opted to be proactive and made a voluntary trip to the federal building with his lawyer.
“Those two previous things happened and now this thing happens with Biogenesis and, again, I’m not guilty of anything,” he said. “They’re thinking I’m a monster, but they don’t know what really happened. The federal government charged me without interviewing anyone. Major League Baseball came to my house and threatened me in front of my family.”
It was an uphill battle to defend himself. He admitted in a plea agreement to buying testosterone for himself twice without a valid prescription in 2013, but asserts he knew only of Biogenesis’ testosterone treatments for personal use and referred parents and players — including his two sons — there with no compensation and under the impression Bosch was a legitimate doctor. (He wasn’t.)
“We all thought Biogenesis [was a legitimate medical practice],” he said. “I would never have gone there if I knew [Bosch] wasn’t a doctor. I wouldn’t have trusted him with my own health, much less the health of my two sons.”
During the investigation, Collazo discovered his privacy rights had been violated by Rodriguez, who purchased and shared his confidential medical records with federal prosecutors — an act which brought Collazo under legal fire. In June, he filed a lawsuit for damages above $15 thousand against “ARod.” Despite his desire to put all this behind him, the oft-maligned pitching ace refuses to drop the suit until justice is served.
“I’m not going to leave it alone,” he said. “I will not stop. If those records had not been made public, none of this would have happened to me.”
He has been knocked down and had his name dragged through the proverbial mud, but much like a cat, Collazo always seems to land on his feet.
“They try to bring me down, but they can’t because I say the truth and do the right thing,” he said. “Because of the trust of God and the people who really know me — my family, kids and close friends — I bounce back better than ever every time. The truth always comes out. Now, my academy has more kids than ever before. They say all these things about me, but I must be doing something right.”