THE COLLEGE YEARS
My college career began in junior college at Cerritos JC. In 1989, we had a spectacular team and won the State Championship. After two years in junior college, I had a number of full scholarship offers from different Division I schools. I decided to attend Cal State Fullerton over the University of Miami. George Horton, now the coach of the University of Oregon, and Augie Garrido, now the coach of the University of Texas, were my coaches for the next two years. In 1992, we had the great opportunity to play in the College World Series. Unfortunately, we came up just short to Pepperdine. We finished the ’92 season as the second best team in the country.
THE MINOR LEAGUES
My minor-league career began with the Minnesota Twins. In 1992 during the College World Series, I was drafted in the 14th round by the Twins. As soon as the College World Series ended, I started my professional career. My first stop was Kenosha, WI. After passing a dozen or so dairy farms, we reached a dingy little ballpark that felt like it was in the middle of nowhere—it was.
As a kid being raised in Orange County, California, Wisconsin was certainly a shock. For the next three years, I played in the Twins minor-league organization. I spent the better part of two of those years in the Midwest and Florida. By 1995, I’d made it to AAA; a wonderful year in Salt Lake City.
THE BIG LEAGUES
In 1996, I was invited to big league camp. If I could pitch well enough, there was an outside chance of making the team. The invitation to big league camp, I think, was a congratulatory gesture from the prior year’s accomplishments in AAA more than an opportunity to make the team.
For the next six weeks, I pitched the best baseball of my life. By the end of spring training, I indeed made the team. I was just as shocked as anyone. I was now officially a Major League Baseball player.
I spent the next three years in the big leagues with Minnesota. Unfortunately, my choice to use steroids was damaging my career. When I left Fullerton, I weighed 185 pounds soaking wet. At 6’6, I heard over and over that if I could just gain weight I could throw 100 mph (a bit of an exaggeration, but you get the point). So starting in 1992, I chose to take steroids at an extreme level. Over the next four years, I gained about 60 pounds, and my fastball went from 85 to 96 mph (see video below).
In 1996, I pitched about two-thirds of the season and had to have my first rib removed because my right arm had gone numb. In ’97, I tore the tendon out of my right triceps. In ’98, I tore the big tendon in my groin off my pelvis. That was the end of my career in Minnesota.
In 1999, I was traded to the New York Yankees. I couldn’t believe that I was going from the Minnesota Twins to the New York Yankees! In 1998, the Yankees had won more games than any team in the history of baseball. In Minnesota, we were hoping we wouldn’t lose 100 games.
When I got to spring training, Joe Torre called me into his office and said that there was one spot available in the bullpen and that there were 12 pitchers trying out for it. Those were certainly not very good odds for me.
This was the first time in my professional career that I was going to pitch drug-free. But without drugs, I didn’t know exactly how well I was going to pitch. I’d never known anything else as a professional.
Spring training ended with an exposition game at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles. Before the game, Don Zimmer told me that I made the team. Letting all my family and friends know that I’d made the team was a thrill—especially since it was now for the New York Yankees.
In 1999, the Yankees had an All-Star team—that is except for me. They didn’t need me to pitch very much with the likes of Andy Pettitte, Mariano Rivera, David Cone, and Roger Clemens. By the end of that year, we had blown through the American League East and were headed straight for the World Series.
We entered the ’99 World Series a big favorite, but we were competing against the Atlanta Braves. You would think with the likes of Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, and John Smoltz we might be in a little bit concerned. It didn’t take us very long—we shutout them down in four games.
I went from nearly losing 100 games the year before to pitching for the World Champs! You would think I would be on top of the world. However, there was something missing. I had a hole that needed to be filled, and all the things I tried (money, fame, winning, drugs, alcohol) weren’t getting the job done. Life took a radical change in 2000—Jesus Christ became the center of my world.
My baseball career was something that I look back on with mixed emotions. On the one hand, it was a great thrill to play Major League Baseball. On the other, I cheated my entire way through it, so it’s hard to really truly enjoy the accomplishment. Go here to watch my story or watch ESPN’s Outside the Lines report below.