ST. PETERSBURG — The New Port Richey man who accused Philadelphia Phillies pitcher J.C. Romero of assaulting him after a game last summer at Tropicana Field is taking his fight to court.
Robert Eaton, a 26-year-old father of two, has filed a lawsuit in Pinellas County, alleging that the baseball player was negligent and caused him serious and permanent injury on June 25.
Eaton said he was trying to get autographs from Phillies players, who were brushing him off. Eaton said he called out to Romero something to the effect of, "How about you get me some juice?" The player snapped, Eaton said, and hit him in the neck, almost causing him to fall over.
Romero could not be reached for comment.
March 3 suit says Eaton is seeking a jury trial and judgement in excess of $15,000 — that's the threshold to have the case heard in circuit court.
"It happened, and it affected my life," Eaton said.
St. Petersburg police investigated Eaton's claims last summer and passed the case on to the Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney's Office.
Prosecutors said they decided not to pursue battery charges against the Romero because of conflicting witness accounts.
Richard Ripplinger, who supervises misdemeanor cases for the prosecutor's office, said an investigator spoke to staffers at Tropicana Field, and others, and also watched a surveillance video shot from the upper deck that showed some sort of a "tussle" going on, but it was not conclusive, he said.
"We did investigation beyond what was in the police report," Ripplinger said. "We put quite a bit of investigative effort into it."
Eaton said the assault left him with three herniated disks in his neck. For the past several months, he's seen a doctor for physical therapy.
He also said the incident put a damper on his career plans.
Eaton, a licensed EMT, was planning to start firefighter school in August. But because of the injury, he wasn't able to enroll in classes.
"I couldn't pass the physical," he said. "I've had to put everything on hold."
Times staff writer Curtis Krueger contributed to this report. Kameel Stanley can be reached at [email protected]com or (727) 893-8643.