The more we hear about Alex Rodriguez, the more surreal his spring-training news conference in Tampa, Fla., seems in retrospect. And the more I think about that odd event - Yankees teammates watching with arms crossed as A-Rod spun a tale about shooting a product called "boli" with a cousin - the more I come back to the chilling words of Don Hooton.Very well-written and very powerful, as I mentioned and alluded to above. Now whether or not, A-Rod did use steroids back in high school is not fully known, but one thing is for sure, Taylor Hooton did. And tragically, he is no longer with us because of it.
They are words that every parent of every young athlete should hear.
The father of Taylor Hooton, a Texas high school baseball player who committed suicide after quitting steroid use in 2003, was in Tampa to announce a "partnership" with Rodriguez. In trying to repair his reputation, Rodriguez had agreed to a vague relationship with the Taylor Hooton Foundation, which is dedicated to educating young athletes, parents, and coaches about steroids.
It doesn't matter, really, whether Don Hooton was right or wrong when he said he believed Rodriguez's story that day. What matters is the message the heartbroken father has made a commitment to spreading. If attaching his foundation to the richest steroid cheat in baseball history will save a kid this year or next year or the year after that, fine. It's a deal well worth making.
Rodriguez's statement that he used boli was prompted by a Sports Illustrated report that he tested positive for steroids during Major League Baseball's pilot testing program in 2003 - the same year Taylor Hooton died. The results of those tests were supposed to remain secret according to an agreement between MLB and its players' association.
Now the reporter who broke that story, Selena Roberts, has published a book filled with all kinds of new allegations about Rodriguez. Among the more intriguing in A-Rod: The Many Lives of Alex Rodriguez is that Rodriguez used steroids way back in high school - long before his cousin obtained the boli from a pharmacy in the Dominican Republic.
According to the book, Rodriguez could barely bench-press 100 pounds as a sophomore. A year later, he was throwing 310 pounds of iron around.
As soon as I read that, I thought again of Don Hooton's haunted eyes and the chilling story of his son's tragic attempt to speed up his physical maturation to become a better baseball player.
According to Don Hooton, Taylor had been told by his coach that he needed to bulk up if he was going to have a chance to be in his team's starting rotation. So Taylor went to the gym, where teammates introduced him to the secret of their workout regimens. They didn't even know the names of some of the substances, Don Hooton said, nor the proper way to use them.
They just injected themselves and pumped iron. That part of the story is what struck Hooton about Rodriguez's account of using boli and not even being sure what it was or whether he was using it properly.
Much has been made of denials by Rodriguez's coach, Rich Hofman, and high school teammate Doug Mientkiewicz that they had any knowledge or awareness of steroid use by Rodriguez. But Hooton's tale might shine a little light on that. Coaches who pressure young players to bulk up can unwittingly drive them to steroids, and a culture of such abuse wouldn't reflect well on other players, either.
That's why Hooton's foundation focuses on educating coaches as well as parents and athletes.
Taylor Hooton's behavior changed suddenly and noticeably, his father said. He wouldn't say what was wrong. Eventually, Taylor revealed the steroid use to a therapist. Soon after, he stopped taking the drugs. Soon after that, he was found dead.
Taylor Hooton was 17.
Steroid use causes the body to slow and eventually stop production of its own testosterone. That production doesn't start again the moment the steroids stop. So the body is left without the natural testosterone it needs. That can lead to depression and lethargy, especially in a 17-year-old boy.
When Congress held its hearings on steroids in baseball, it was easy to be skeptical of politicians who said they were all about saving young people. That smacked of political grandstanding. But listening to Don Hooton that day in Tampa, and looking into his eyes, was both heartbreaking and compelling.
And that's why his face and his words are what stuck with me from that day. Amid all the spin and lying and cheating, Don Hooton was telling the brutal truth.
If the book is right, Rodriguez and Taylor Hooton were in similar places at one time. They were high school players wanting to get bigger and stronger in a hurry. They did what they heard would help them.
Taylor Hooton died.
Alex Rodriguez became the highest-paid player in the history of Major League Baseball.
Steroids helped each of them get where they were going.
Wednesday, May 6, 2009
A Haunting Story About The Effects Of Steroids
I saw this in the Philly Inquirer today and considered it a worth while, haunting read about the new A-Rod book, some of the stuff in the book and the effects of steroids. The article is called "Steroids: A Tale of Two Outcomes" and it is written by Phil Sheridan, one of my favorite Inquirer columnists. And yes, I have copied and pasted the whole article into a blockquotes.....