Growing Up In The Steroid Era
I was born in October of 1993 in the greater Philadelphia area. It was perfect; my father was on paternity leave and could lay with me and expose me to the greatest sport on Earth–baseball–during a rare Phillies World Series run that unfortunately was cut short (freaking Joe Carter).
This first month of my life was the ideal foundation for a kid destined for a lifelong love of baseball. From early childhood, I wanted to be a professional baseball player. I dressed up in a full Phillies uniform and played games against myself. I was the pitcher, the hitter, the fielders, and the announcers. Since those hours spent pretending in my backyard, I’ve played little league baseball, middle school baseball, high school baseball, travel baseball, and currently college baseball, but nothing has ever been as pure as the days in my yard where every at-bat was a full-count, with bases-loaded, with my team down three runs in the bottom of the ninth of the World Series.
I’ve often reflected on those years and wondered what changed? Where did I transform from the kid who made his first trip to Cooperstown and got a mini-bat engraved with “Drew Diehl: Future Hall of Famer” to the nineteen-year-old who has realized that maybe division two college baseball is the highest level of baseball he’ll ever play?
Call it short-sighted or whatever you may, but there was one single factor that contributed to my loss of baseball innocence: steroids.
I became obsessed with steroids and performance enhancing drugs (PEDs) during middle school; I read books on BALCO (alleged steroid provider of Barry Bonds), Jose Canseco, Kirk Radomski, I read the entire Mitchell Report, and every school project for my three years of junior high was focused around PEDs in baseball. It was through this research that I concluded that maybe–on my own natural abilities–I would never play professional baseball. But with the help of steroids, maybe I could.
Home run numbers in Major League Baseball ballooned and just like that, as a maturing teenager who lived for the crack of the bat and the smell of dirty leather, I became a baseball cynic. Bonds, and Sosa, and McGwire, and Clemens tainted me, and made me question who among the baseball elite wasn’t using steroids.
As a baseball player and a baseball fan I felt cheated. Cheated out of enjoying a hot dog and hoping that maybe this was the game where I would catch a home run ball because every possible home run souvenir came with an anabolic syringe stabbed in one’s back.
Now, I’ve come full circle. As I wrote about in my past article, The Reviving of Major League Baseball (http://www.dudesnews.com/2013/07/10/the-revival-of-major-league-baseball/), baseball is on its way back from lying and cheating to honesty and hustling, from home runs and offense to pitching and defense, from Bonds, Sosa, McGwire, and Clemens to Trout, Harper, Puig, and Machado.
With all that being said, PEDs are not gone from baseball. Even with the strongest testing policy in the three major American sports, there will always be players finding loopholes. But, Commissioner Bud Selig and Major League Baseball are getting to the conclusion of the story.
The first part of the conclusion lays with Alex Rodriguez and Ryan Braun.
The two are involved (with many other players) with Biogenesis: a Miami based clinic led by Tony Bosch that provided athletes with various PEDs. Rodriguez and Braun will be the biggest pieces that fall, and how their situations are handled determines whether the “steroid era” is the past or the present.
Braun has already been suspended for the remainder of the 2013 season (65 games) without pay, and for the first time former and current Major League Baseball players and coaches have spoken out about their negative feelings towards Braun. In a tweet on July 22nd, former manager Ozzie Guillen said “who is next and what is next? clean this now please.” And, former pitcher Curt Shilling tweeted “Apologies to anyone I offended while defending Ryan Braun. Especially the gentleman working for fed ex who had his life ruined.”
Rodriguez’s punishment is expected to be announced sometime within the next two days, and speculation ranges from a lifetime ban to the remainder of the season. With his decision on the consequences for Rodriguez, Selig has the opportunity to say that the players and league officials refuse to show any mercy on those few who cheat.*
1:15 PM Eastern Time. August 5th: It has been announced that twelve players will be suspended fifty games due to their connections to Biogenesis. For those rolling their eyes and saying “not this again”, I urge you to consider that this could be the final “steroid scandal”, the final time throwing away a jersey of a player you once loved.
Baseball isn’t pure and innocent anymore. But it can be the game we have always loved. It can be The Natural, it can be The Field of Dreams, it can be Bull Durham. It can be America’s pastime.
*Since this article has been published, Alex Rodriguez has been suspended through the 2014 season with the option to appeal.