Jewish World Review March. 1, 2005 / 20 Adar I 5765
Kids on the Juice: Getting Bigger... A National Pastimehttp://www.NewsAndOpinion.com | Baseball may have been born of mom and apple pie, but the pie had long ago become the juice. Prodigious biceps. Even more prodigious home runs. Bonds, McGwire, Sosa, et al. Did they get a little extra help. Who's to blame? Where does it start? Jose Canseco can rattle on, but I can tell you, it started years before The Bash Brothers became the poster boys for "Big Is Better."
Long before I hit the majors, I had seen what a little extra "help" could do. I had watched those who went before me and I wanted to be just like them. Better. Bigger bat. Quicker swing. Faster on the base paths.
Just like my peers, I watched ESPN with envy. I dreamed of the day that I'd be featured on the highlight reel with Len Berman making a catch phrase out of my name.
And the pressure was unbearable. The only thing more vicious than the competition was the fan's wrath. Each time you walked up to the plate you were under scrutiny and expected to excel. It may not have been the reality but it feels real to almost every player. Anyone facing that kind of heat soon finds himself looking for any kind of relief. Some quit. Some ignore it. But there were plenty like me who wanted to get an advantage.
When I started out, I was just a small semblance of what I would become. I had neither the size, the strength; not the speed, nor the endurance. I was basically a runt. But my shortcomings were not limited to sports. I had no confidence. I couldn't have a decent conversation without resorting to some immature remark. Women wouldn't look at me. Hell, I was so inexperienced, even if the hottest girl in town had thrown herself at me, I wouldn't even know what to do.
It was back then that I made a decision. Or, perhaps, the decision was made for me. I would do whatever was necessary to make me the player and person I wanted to be.
That year my body changed in ways that surprised even me. I grew by leaps and bounds. It seemed that females were taking an interest in me, and I in return was having feelings I hadn't ever felt before. Just like I had heard. I was getting bigger and growing faster. I put on weight on places where before there weren't even places. I went from minor league squirt, barely able to get the ball out of the infield to bulked up bonafide slamma-jamma, bangin' down the fence slugger going yard with the big boys. I watched as my teammates took the same course, bodies evolving from seeming kids to killer hitters in less than a year.
All you had to do was look at any of us and you'd know something was up. You'd have to wonder how league officials could not have known that what was happening wasn't exactly written in the rule book. But the fact is, they did know. They had to. It was happening every summer. Players would end the season as scrawny children and come back the next spring as if they had put on five or six inches of bulk. The league ignored it. The managers and coaches took advantage of it.
Friends condoned it. And there was no question that the fans knew it. Even our parents knew, and short of having that little talk or finding new magazines under the bed, they just seemed to just let it go. And it continues today, unabated.
Canseco can talk all he wants about how steroids and the pressure of the big leagues. But I can tell you. Baseball wasn't meant to be easy, especially in Little League.
Then again, when you're going through puberty everything seems like a challenge.