An unauthorized apology from Major League Baseball
Aspen, CO Colorado
Dear baseball fans,
I knowingly and willingly took steroids. I am sorry.
I wanted to make this simple, but it is not a simple matter. In exchange for brevity I offer explanation. You deserve to know the reality of now.
Foremost, I love this great game. As a kid I was enamored with the smell and feel of a freshly-oiled glove. The greatest sight for me still is the streaks of lime through the batter’s box and across the plate after a baserunner slides home to score the first run of a game. For the boy in all of us searching for an age-old escape, there is nothing so deeply diverting.
From the beginning, I embraced the values that I was taught; I worked hard. I concentrated. I gave everything for the team. Heedless of my efforts, age gave me fewer opportunities to keep playing. I became afraid of losing the intoxicating fantasy.
In high school, for the first time, I trained in the offseason. I got on a weightlifting program. I was strong and healthy. I felt and looked good. I was doing what wholesome, athletic kids were supposed to be doing. Everybody encouraged me.
Looking for an edge, I bought protein powders to improve my size and strength. I graduated to creatine and my parents couldn’t keep the pantries stocked with tuna. Androstenodione, better known as andro, was sold at the local GNC store, and that worked best of all. Little did I, or apparently the FDA, know that it turned my young body into a self-contained steroid factory. I wasn’t hiding anything or breaking any rules. I became a better ballplayer.
I was lucky enough to make it onto a college roster. Then I was really playing ” 40 games in the fall, 80 in the spring, and dozens more in summer leagues in my spare time! The physical demands were tremendous. For the first time, my throwing arm ached all the time. As a remedy, trainers rubbed a clear liquid on our sore joints. I don’t know what it was, but within minutes after application my mouth filled with a bitter taste. It was probably illegal. I never asked.
In addition to the daily pills, powders, and rub downs I became accustomed to, once drafted and playing minor league ball, amphetamines were introduced into the routine. Little green “beans” have been prevalent in professional baseball since the ’60s to offset the draining effects of late-night games and constant travel. Use of speed is common, even expected to ensure everyone is giving it their all, all of the time.
The things that changed when I got to the majors were that the drugs were synthesized (and more expensive) to make detection difficult and there were people around who monitored us so we could use more safely. And, they had Human Growth Hormone (HGH). It didn’t do as much for your strength, but it is incredible for day-to-day recovery. You feel equal to what they are paying you every single night and it’s impossible to detect without drawing blood.
The thing most people don’t understand is how intense the competition gets at the higher levels of sport. There are hundreds of guys vying for only a few spots, and they are all great players! If you miss a week, you might be finished. Between high school and the big leagues, you have six, maybe seven, years to prove yourself. There is no time to waste on rehabbing injuries or even searching your conscience to determine if the culture of the game is morally objectionable enough to give up your dream over.
It’s a game of inches, as they say. Little things make a big difference. When guys started taking steroids, it was obvious. Players you used to compare favorably to were suddenly driving the ball just a little harder, getting to first a tad quicker, and adding a little more zip to their throws. You had to ask how. When you got the answer, it was nearly impossible to just say “no.”
It wasn’t like I was thinking about the drugs all of the time, either. There are too many other things to worry about. Everybody knows that they are breaking the rules when they start on “the juice.” It is imparted early on that in order to succeed you need to get the edge on every other player, even teammates. Do unto others as they are doing to you. Accepting this cruel truth is your initiation into the upper echelon of athletics.
I never felt that I was cheating any other player out of a chance. The thing you need to keep in mind is that everybody with aspirations in athletics knows what’s coming. It’s laudable if you pursue the game thinking you can do it without drugs, but it is not realistic. The level of play might be higher in the steroid era, but make no mistake, it still is a level playing field.
I hate to even mention the money aspect of the game because, like you, I would play this game for nothing if that was the only option. It’s not though, and big paydays matter. It is easier than you think to get accustomed to the lifestyle. Giving it all up on the principle of playing clean is beyond most people’s strength of character. It sounds weak, and it is, but it’s true just the same.
Lots of people wonder why we would risk our livelihoods on possibly getting caught flunking a random drug test. What they don’t understand is that the risk is actually greater and more certain in not taking drugs. Without drugs I would have never gotten my big chance.
What I did, I did to a large extent because you liked it. I’m not placing any blame on you, but you need to know what kind of effect you have on me. Your cheers and adulation are more addicting than the drugs. I feed on the praise I have become accustomed to since childhood. It’s human frailty. I am human … after all.
All of us
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