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Career Minor Leaguer's Perspective on 'Roids


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Mottola: 'Steroids got out of control'


By Jerry Crasnick, ESPN Insider



DUNEDIN, Fla. Chad Mottola was 6 feet, 3 inches and 220 pounds of pure physical specimen when the Cincinnati Reds selected him out of the University of Central Florida with the fifth overall choice in the 1992 amateur draft. One pick later, the New York Yankees chose Michigan high school shortstop Derek Jeter.


Former Reds scouting director Julian Mock, a man with a flair for southern-fried colloquialisms, could barely contain his enthusiasm over Mottola. "That boy is so big," Mock said, "he could hunt bear with a switch."



Welcome to the Show?


Time is running out on Chad Mottola.


Thirteen years and eight organizations later, the old Dale Murphy comparisons are a fading memory. Mottola has amassed all but 109 of his 5,443 professional at-bats in the minor leagues, in places like Chattanooga, Indianapolis and Charlotte. His swing is too long, the scouts say, and suddenly he looks up and he's 33 years old and playing a spring game on a cloverleaf back field where rickety metal bleachers pass for stands.


Through numerous setbacks and several bouts of soul-searching, Mottola has refrained from using steroids to help him achieve his goal of making the majors. But he's seen numerous teammates and opponents succumb to the temptation. And while he loves the game enough to keep playing, he admits to frustration over seeing some players reach the big leagues chemically enhanced while he continues to plug away in the minors, unjuiced.


"If I counted up all the bus trips I've taken, it could be ugly," Mottola says. "I just wish we had a pension."


Mottola is scheduled to begin this year with Toronto's Triple-A farm club in Syracuse. He recently sat down with Insider and assessed the steroid debate from a perspective beyond the headlines that of the minor-league lifer who's tried to do the right thing, and is convinced he's paid a price.



* * *

"In the minor leagues they test for recreational drugs and steroids and amphetamines,'' Chad Mottola says. "It's the whole gamut, and we get tested regularly. I played last year with the Orioles' Triple-A team in Ottawa, and we were tested by the team and by Major League Baseball. I got tested at least four times overall.






"They were all random. None were announced. They were all surprise tests, and most of them were on the road. We had one in Charlotte and one in Rochester, as I recall. The penalty for the first positive test is 15 games, and you can only keep that so private. One guy on our team was suspended, and he was actually the smallest guy on the team and he was a pitcher. That tells you right there that you never know what's happening.



"You show up to the park and they say, 'You can't go out on the field until you give us your urine test.' Some guy gets to watch the whole thing go down. Pants down and everything, so it's a little uncomfortable. But as a guy who's been in the minors as long as I have and seen some of the stuff going on, I'm all for cleaning the game up.


"Since I've always been a bigger guy, it's been an easier decision my whole career not to take steroids. I've had other players come up to me and say, 'Yeah, sure you're not on it.' And I say, 'No, I'm not. Trust me. If I was on it, I wouldn't be here after 13 years. I would be in the big leagues like some of the guys doing it.'


"I tried Creatine when it first came out because that was the craze, and it made me stronger without a doubt. But baseball is a loose game, and it really made me tight. I just didn't feel like it made me a better player.


"In baseball, if the guy next to you is doing something, you don't feel like you can give him the advantage every day over 162 games. So you might try it whether it's legal or illegal. I think that's where steroids got out of control. If the guy next to you is doing it and he's getting more looks or better opportunities, then you try it as well.


"One thing you hear guys say a lot is, 'This is my last shot. I know 10 years from now, I might have not tried it, and some other guy might have done it and gotten up there on his last shot.' The other thing you hear is, 'I do it to feed my family. I'm not doing it to spite you.'


"It's not out there in the clubhouse, where people are lining up in the bathroom. But some guys admit to doing steroids, and there's not much you can say to them. People talk, and all of a sudden you see a guy who threw 85 miles per hour last year throwing 93, and the pitcher in the next locker says, 'What happened?' and the guy will tell him. And all of a sudden he's doing the same thing. That's what's scary guys are doing it to compete.


"There are certain teams, a handful of clubs, who maybe haven't promoted it, but who've looked the other way on it. I never came up with one of those teams, but I've heard stories. I hate to be so vague, but I've heard stories from guys who say, 'They tell you to go home and get stronger, and there are some options out there.' Then the team kind of looks the other way when someone comes back a better player.


"There are tell-tale signs when a guy is using it. Some guys try to hide it, but when their back is full of acne and they've put on 30 pounds of pure muscle when they're 35 years old, it's physically impossible.


"People have an impression that you take steroids and become this big muscleman all of a sudden. But a lot of baseball guys don't take it for strength. They take it to help with fast-twitch muscles or to heal up faster from injuries. I've also seen a lot of freak injuries as a direct correlation of steroids. A guy will get on it and be running to first base, and all of a sudden he pulls a hamstring.


"A lot more pitchers take steroids than people think. A guy will be tooling around in the minors, and all of a sudden he can get to the big leagues with that extra 3-4 miles an hour. Or he'll be able to throw back-to-back days and recover quickly. It's become more that type of drug than a drug that people go to the beach with.


"I've talked to guys about it and seen the effectiveness of the drug. The temptation has been there, but I just can't bring myself to cross the line, I guess. A lot of it is health concerns and sleeping at night. I watched the whole BALCO thing, and they interviewed one of the track girls and she said it got so easy she couldn't sleep at night. Because she was cheating. It's a drug. It's illegal. It's a crime. There's a lot of things.


"I absolutely think it's cheating. That's the way I was raised. And I look at it as a drug. It's against the law. It's not only cheating on the baseball field, but it's a crime. That's what's frustrating. You see all these players doing it, and not only are they cheating guys like me. But they're also breaking the law, and it's not really frowned upon that way.


"The penalties in the drug testing should definitely be stiffer. We were talking about it in stretching the other day, and guys were saying it should be one strike and you're out. If you do it one time you should be penalized like a criminal. To make a guy sit out 10 days the first time he does it, what are you saying? We'll tolerate it a little?


"In the minor leagues, the penalty is 15 games the first time and a month the second time. That's pretty big when you're trying to hang on or make a team. But I think it should be rougher in the minors, too. I don't understand why it wouldn't be.


"It's been frustrating my whole career to see guys use it and take jobs from players who are clean. That's why I'm excited about what's happening now. You hate to see baseball take so many hits from everything that's coming out now. But as a guy who's never taken it and see people actually take your job, you have to be excited.


"Maybe Jose Canseco was lying in his book. My biggest problem is that he named names and didn't have proof. I think he was just guessing on some guys, and that's a bad thing when you don't know positively what's happening. There's way too much hearsay going on right now, and you hate to see guys get hurt because of it.


"But I'm probably one of the few guys who's happy Canseco wrote his book, because it was necessary for someone to come out and say how rampant this has been at times. Someone finally needed to come forward and say, 'This is what's going on.'


"Some players do it so much, I think they convince themselves that they're not cheating. They get so brainwashed and start denying it, they talk themselves into it. They're fooling themselves, and there's nothing you can do about it.


"That's why I'm so eager to get this year started and see the kind of level playing field I've never seen before. If I'm not good enough to get to the big leagues, hey, great. I can walk away with no problem. But I think the game is going to change. I really do.''





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