Garrison Lassiter was selected by the New York Yankees in the 27th round of the 2008 MLB draft out of West Forsyth High School in Clemmons, North Carolina. The Yankees gave him a $675,000 signing bonus. In five minor league seasons, Lassiter never played above high-A ball and hit just .244 with four home runs and 73 RBI in 235 games.
In December 2008, Lassiter filed a pro se lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina against the New York Yankees for tortious interference with contract, breach of contract, and defamation. Lassiter alleged that the Yankees thwarted his professional sports career “in [an] effort to protect [the] career” of then-Yankees shortstop and 14-time MLB All-Star, Derek Jeter. According to the complaint, Lassiter, now 30, sued the Yankees because he wanted to get what he deserved for the interference and lost years of his pro career.
Lassiter further alleged that it was blatantly obvious that Jeter was pulling the strings within the Yankees organization. He pointed to the fact that he was moved from his natural position at shortstop to third base. Lassiter compared his minor league career to the career of Los Angeles Dodgers’ shortstop, Corey Seager. During his minor league career, Seager hit .307 with 62 home runs and 279 RBI in 393 games in parts of five seasons, making it to Triple-A by his age-21 season and debuting with the Dodgers later that season in 2015.
According to NJ.com, included in the lawsuit were letters Lassiter had written to MLB teams. One of them read: “I cannot get on the field due to the New York Yankees trying to control my career. I’m the only Baseball Player that will stand up to the New York Yankees.” However, contrary to Lassiter’s beliefs, Aaron Ledesma, who managed Lassiter in high-A ball, said Lassiter was only okay offensively and below average overall. Ledesma also said that Lassiter did not have the footwork needed to thrive at shortstop, which led to him being moved to third base.
In response, the Yankees moved to dismiss based on lack of subject matter jurisdiction. Judge Thomas D. Schroeder in granting the Yankees’ motion held, “Lassiter, as the party seeking to invoke the court’s authority to act, bears the burden of establishing subject matter jurisdiction. McNutt v. Gen. Motors Acceptance Corp., 298 U.S. 178, 189 (1936). Lassiter has failed to meet this burden by defaulting on any response. Moreover, the court’s own investigation shows that—on the pleadings and evidence before it— here is no basis for subject matter jurisdiction.”
The lawsuit against the Yankees was only the first of several lawsuits filed by Lassiter. After the lawsuit against the Yankees was dismissed, Lassiter sued the Cincinnati Reds for $1.635 million on December 30, 2019—the equivalent of three years of the major-league minimum salary. Lassiter claimed that the Reds kept him from trying out for the team. He argues that the Reds’ rules requiring potential players to be between the ages of 16 to 22 are “clearly age preferential.”
In addition, Lassiter sued Proehlific Park, a North Carolina training complex owned by former NFL wide receiver, Ricky Proehl. Lassiter, who signed with the Yankees over a college football career, says Proehlific Park failed to get him an NFL tryout.
With Jeter being nearly unanimously inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame, it is safe to say that it was Jeter’s play on the field, and not a conspiracy against Lassiter, that kept Lassiter in the minor leagues. Just like the lawsuit against the Yankees, the lawsuits against the Reds and Proehlific Park are likely to be dismissed. However, we will stay tuned for any future lawsuits from Lassiter.