I love baseball — everything about it. I love the atmosphere, people shouting and yelling, and the occasional $5 hot dog. I am not saying I was ever very good, but growing up, I wouldn’t ever pass up a chance to play catch with my grandpa or go play with some friends at the park. Not only was it America’s pastime, but it was my pastime.
I am a fan of the lovable losers, the Chicago Cubs, and growing up I wanted to be like one man: Sammy Sosa. The memories of him blasting home runs over the ivory at Wrigley Field or the almost-inhuman home run battle he had with Mark McGwire made my childhood summers that much better.
But on June 3, 2003, it seemed as if my world and Sosa’s world came crashing down quickly. He was caught using a corked bat, which garnered him an eight-game suspension. He was never the same after that, suffering odd injuries and falling off the historic form he had just a few years earlier.
Two years later in 2005, he and other notable players such as Rafael Palmerio, Mark McGwire and Jose Canseco were called in front of U.S. Congress to be questioned about their connection with steroid use in the 2003 season. Of those who testified, Canseco and McGwire have both released details about their own personal steroid usage during their playing careers. Palmerio still denies those allegations.
Since that day, many other reports have surfaced, such as in December of 2007, when the Mitchell Report included the names of 89 former and current Major League Baseball players, such as Roger Clemens, Andy Pettitte and Miguel Tejada, who had been connected with companies that distributed steroids or performance-enhancing drugs. Then in June, ESPN reported that the MLB was going to seek 100-game suspension for 20 players who were connected to a Miami clinic being investigated for distributing steroids. Two of those players were former MVP award winners Ryan Braun and Alex Rodriguez.
Nearly 10 years later, MLB is still fighting against athletes who want that extra edge. It seems that every day you turn on ESPN or get on Twitter, there is some sort of controversy going on. It goes back to the whole “if you’re not first, then you are last” mentality, which seems to have taken over a majority of athletics. If you take second, you are considered too weak and get criticized for the smallest things. Of course, losing isn’t something a majority of people enjoy, but some people take it to extremes to beat the competition. States such as Texas, Florida and New Jersey are even testing high school athletes for steroids.
Whatever happened to good old-fashioned hard work? It seems that Babe Ruth said it best during his introduction into the Hall of Fame: “I worked hard, and I got on it. And I hope that the coming generation, the young boys today, that they’ll work hard and also be on it.”
There are tons of baseball players out working hard to build on the talent that was given to them, spending countless hours in the weight room and practice field. But it is those select few “cheaters” who leave a bad taste in the mouth of the American public.
Every year, it seems that one player breaks out. A few years back it was Jose Bautista, and now Chris Davis of the Baltimore Orioles is on a torrid pace with 37 home runs already, tying Reggie Jackson for the most home runs for a player in the American League before the All-Star break. With every home run, many people speculate that the player’s strength is coming from steroids or some sort of growth hormone. Why do we have to jump to that conclusion? Why don’t we just believe that all that work in the offseason and spring training is paying off? One reason may be that we had been let down before by the great sluggers of our time, the Bonds, A-Rods and Sosas.
The next time we watch America’s Pastime, let’s remember what helped the Great Bambino become one of the greatest hitters of all time: hard work and a desire to be the best. When those boys from “The Sandlot” spent those countless hours playing baseball trying to imitate Ruth, it would be wise to say that PEDs or steroids didn’t cross their minds. As Benny “The Jet” Rodriguez sped past the bases, it was the PF Flyers, not the steroids.