Former Atlanta Braves general manager John Coppolella, making his first public comments since his resignation and lifetime ban from baseball, said he has been “disgraced and humbled” by events of the past two months and is “heartbroken” over the damage he caused the Atlanta organization.
Coppolella apologized to the Braves, their fans, industry colleagues, commissioner Rob Manfred’s office and his family in a five-paragraph email to ESPN. He declined a request to comment beyond his statement. Manfred placed Coppolella on MLB’s permanently ineligible list for violations of the international player market and levied several sanctions against the Atlanta organization two weeks ago after a long investigation.
“To this point I have not commented about my departure from the Atlanta Braves,” Coppolella said. “I have been hesitant to speak publicly as my family and I have been devastated and embarrassed by the repercussions of my actions. I realize now that I need to address what happened and speak to those affected.
“To everyone who supports the Atlanta Braves and to everyone who loves the game of baseball, I am deeply sorry.
“Throughout my 20-year baseball career my singular focus has been to help make my team more successful. I am heartbroken that in this case my conduct has done the opposite for the Atlanta Braves organization. I accept full responsibility for my actions.
“To those in the baseball industry, including employees of the Braves and other organizations who feel I was in any way disrespectful or dishonest, I apologize. To the Commissioner’s Office, who spent many extra hours dealing with such an unfortunate situation, please accept my apology. To the Braves fans and to those in the front office who supported me throughout my time as a General Manager, please know that I understand and accept your anger and frustration. To my family, who has stood by my side through this entire ordeal, I love you so much and I am sorry for the pain my actions have caused you.
“I have learned the lesson of a lifetime, as my mistakes have cost me my dream job and my future in the game that I love. I hope that other people, regardless of their profession, use this as a cautionary tale when making their own business decisions. I have been disgraced and humbled, and I will strive for the rest of my life to live honorably so that this is not my defining moment.”
Coppolella, 38, joined the Atlanta organization in 2006 and ascended to general manager in October 2015, when the Braves signed him to a four-year contract.
He resigned a day after the final game of the 2017 regular season “as a result of a breach of MLB rules regarding the international player market,” the team said in a statement. The Braves have since hired former Toronto Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos to run the team’s baseball operations.
As a result of MLB’s investigation, Manfred freed star prospect Kevin Maitan and 12 other international players from contracts with the Atlanta organization. The Braves were prohibited from signing any international players for more than $10,000 during the 2019-20 window, and their international signing bonus pool in 2020-21 was reduced by 50 percent.
In addition, the Braves forfeited a third-round pick in the 2018 MLB first-year player draft after the commissioner’s office determined that they offered “impermissible benefits” to a player in an attempt to persuade him to sign for a lower bonus.
During a recent interview with Mike Golic and Trey Wingo on ESPN Radio’s Golic & Wingo, Manfred indicated that the severity of Coppolella’s punishment stemmed in part from a lack of cooperation during MLB’s investigation.
“While the Braves were completely cooperative in the investigative process, I can’t say the same for John,” Manfred said.
Braves special assistant Gordon Blakeley received a one-year suspension for his role in the international signing violations, and Manfred said he plans to discipline other club employees who are found guilty of misconduct in the international realm.
John Hart, who had been downgraded from president of baseball operations to senior adviser upon Anthopoulos’ arrival, resigned from his post four days before MLB banned Coppolella. The Braves announced that Hart was leaving the organization to “pursue other opportunities.”