MLB stars struck out in the minds of some East Tennesseans

By: Gordon Boyd
By: Gordon Boyd

Knoxville (WVLT) -- Some of major league baseball's biggest money players, both currently and formerly, are at the top of a list none of them wanted to make.

They find them selves accused after a 20 month investigation of using hormones, steroids and other questionable or illegal substances to stay on top of their game.

Officially, the report still isn’t that old, but too soon, Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig says, they will have to talk about penalties before talking to the players or their union.

A different kind of umpire was making the call in baseball on Thursday.

It’s called the Mitchell report and just hours after it was released, it was already drawing a strong reaction from players and fans in the Tennessee Valley.

In 1919, after the Chicago White Sox’s through the World Series, the cry was “say it ain't so, Joe!”

In 2007, it seems to be “we know it's so, we just didn't quite know how much.”

“I saw that Roger Clemens and Andy Pettitte were on the list,” said Hunter Daniel, a left handed pitcher at Bearden who is bound for UT. “They're two of my favorite pitchers, so that kind of hurt because they're role models for me and I'm sure other pitchers as well.”

For the Bearden southpaw, the message is less about who may have used steroids and more that that they've gotten caught.

“It makes you feel better now than when you do stuff the right way,” Daniel said. “It makes it seem a lot better than people who are using drugs to cheat.”

“You have got to hope there's some kind of punishment,” said Nate Headley of the Yard Baseball Center. “I mean, do you keep Barry Bonds out of the Hall of Fame?”

Headley, a private Instructor and college assistant says his rules at The Yard in West Knoxville are clear, if he even suspects you're juicing, you're out.

“I don't feel any of our guys are using it,” he said. “Whatever they're doing in our high schools in this area, I think they're doing it the right way.”

Knox County Schools treat steroid use the same as they would treat alcohol or other illegal drugs.

The athlete is kicked off the team and/or out of school if they are caught with them in the building, on the grounds or connected to any school activity.

But there may be a loop hole.

“You know, at our age, there's never any proof because at our age we never get tested for it,” said Daniel.

“I know that probably would be very expensive, but I wouldn't be against it,” said Matt Buckner, Bearden High School’s baseball coach.

Coach Buckner also thinks the bigger challenge may be getting players, at every age to see
beyond the short-term gains.

“It's going to help you throw the ball harder and hit the ball further,” he said.

The coach also thinks the goal should be to help athletes realize that the line between gaining an edge and cheating along with what is fair and foul is firm.

“Morality, all of it comes in from parents and upbringing,” he said. “For the most part, we have got good parents, and that's where it begins.”

Headley understands the pressure to better your game and stay there.

His success, he says comes through his effort and God's grace.

For Daniel, the pitch comes straight across the plate.

“I have too much respect for the game,” he said. “I couldn't cheat my way through a game I love so much.”

All the people we talked to said that how the MLB detoxifies itself with penalties or policies will go a long way toward cleansing whatever new stain has come to the game.


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