To Cheat or Not to Cheat (cont.)
The four righthanders started the 1994 season playing for manager Steve Liddle with Fort Myers of the Florida State League. Of Naulty, Liddle says, "He started out a tall, lanky kid that was mainly just skin and bones. He threw a ball that had a lot of movement. But he was a fringe player at best -- and that was on a good day."
Thirteen years later, Liddle and the others learned that Naulty used steroids to transform himself from a fringe minor leaguer into a massive big leaguer throwing 96 mph. They found out because of a 2007 fishing expedition by lawyers for former senator George Mitchell, who had been charged by commissioner Bud Selig to produce a white paper on the game's steroid problem. In January 2007 one of Mitchell's investigators phoned Naulty, one of the nearly 500 former players they attempted to reach.
"Hello, is this Dan Naulty, the former pitcher?" Naulty recalls the investigator asking.
"Yes, it is."
The lawyer identified himself and asked, "Are you willing to talk about drug use?"
"I'd be happy to."
There was silence from the lawyer. And then this: "Do you understand what I'm asking?"
"You're asking me if I'm willing to tell you if I did drugs or not, right?"
"I'm happy to talk to you about my drug use."
Again, silence, and then: "Are you sure you understand what I'm asking?"
"I clearly understand what you're asking. So let's get on with it."
The two spoke for four hours over two days. The Mitchell Report included only six paragraphs about Naulty. But he was all over television because he was one of the few players among the 68 who agreed to be interviewed to voluntarily admit to Mitchell's investigators that he used drugs. (Caminiti had not been interviewed, having died three years earlier after a cocaine-related overdose.) "I was fairly shocked" that there were so few, Naulty says now.
His Miracle teammates were shocked too. Legault said it never occurred to him that Naulty used steroids. Linebarger had noticed in 1994 that Naulty's legs were much larger than they had been, and had asked his teammate what he did in the off-season. "Ah," Naulty said, "me and some football coach really got after the weights."
"I always thought about that," Linebarger says now.
Naulty's revelation hit Roberts hardest. He was the only one of the Miracle pitchers who had played with Naulty when he wasn't using steroids: They had been in Class A ball in Kenosha, Wis., in 1992, after Roberts had decided not to pursue an NBA career. On his off days between starts, Roberts operated the radar gun behind home plate. He consistently clocked Naulty at 84 to 86 miles per hour. Fifteen years later, on a Sunday morning in 2007, Roberts watched Naulty give a television interview about how steroids helped him reach the big leagues.
"I was pretty upset," Roberts says. "Gosh, it's hard enough trying to make it in this profession. You want to make it on your own abilities and work ethic, and all of a sudden, when you think it's an even playing field, you've got somebody cheating. I was very upset, knowing my chance to get to the big leagues was cut short. I was jealous, hurt, frustrated, angry ... all that stuff.
"I guess I should have been suspicious. How can a guy go from 85 miles an hour to 95 in three or four years? As I look back on it, it's so clear and obvious that I can't believe I was that naive and incredibly stupid. All the signs were there."
Vin Scully provided the sound track to Dan Naulty's childhood in Southern California, and Steve Garvey, Ron Cey, Davey Lopes, Dusty Baker and the rest of the Dodgers embodied a dream. Naulty grew up with two ambitions: to win the College World Series and to become a major leaguer. "All I could think about was being a baseball player and all that comes with it," he says.
He had little interest in schoolwork, especially as he grew to his full height in high school and showed promise as a pitcher. But Naulty, despite sporadic weightlifting and a healthy appetite, could not gain weight. He knew a small group of classmates who were into bodybuilding, and the word was they had access to steroids.
"Sure, I'll get you anything you want," one of the muscleheads told him. "I'll put size on you."
Naulty bought steroids in pill form from the guy but says he did not take them. In 1988 he enrolled at Cerritos Junior College, then transferred to Cal State Fullerton two years later. He spent his entire college career on academic probation. One day during a sports psychology class, his professor asked why he didn't give more of an effort. "I don't need this class and I don't need school," Naulty said. "I'm going to play baseball and make more money than you can even think about."
"I've known Dan since he was 19, 20 years old," says Jeff Horn, a former catcher who played with Naulty at Cerritos and against him when Naulty pitched for Fullerton, and was again his teammate with the Miracle. "The thing that stuck out to me was his competitive nature. He loved to compete and figure out a way to get better."
As a senior, Naulty had a chance to realize the first of his childhood dreams when Fullerton played Pepperdine for the 1992 College World Series championship. Titans coach Augie Garrido gave the ball to Naulty, his ace, on two days rest. Naulty gave up two runs in the first inning on a walk and three hits. Garrido pulled him after that one inning. Fullerton lost 3-2. "It was a devastating loss for me," he says. "I just wanted to come home. I needed a rest."
A few weeks later he reported to Kenosha to begin his professional career. Still despondent, he was further depressed by the threadbare Class A life. He lived in a spare bedroom in the home of a man who hosted a Kenosha player each year. Every night Naulty would come home after a game and find his host asleep in a chair in a room filled with books, a lit cigar in his mouth. He was sure they were going to die one night in a fire.
Naulty pitched six times for Kenosha, starting twice. He gave up 22 hits and 11 earned runs in 18 innings. He arrived at a quick conclusion: He wasn't nearly good enough to become a major league pitcher. "I didn't have the speed," he says. "I didn't have the location. I didn't have the size. I had the height. That's all. That's essentially why I got drafted."
Naulty concocted a way to get sent home: He exaggerated an injury. He took an awkward step and tripped during pregame fielding practice and milked the opportunity. He went home to Huntington Beach halfway through the season. "I just kept pretending my hip was bothering me and that was it," he says. "I had scouts telling me, 'Just gain weight, just gain weight.' Everybody was telling me that. My coaches, scouts, friends ... everybody. 'Man, you're 6' 6". If you could just gain weight, you'd be throwing a hundred!'
"Kenosha was really telling. I may not have taken drugs if I got there and was able to compete. But there was no way. I was not getting out of A ball. No chance."
Naulty knew what he had to do. There was no way he could face people as a failed baseball player. The game was his only option. Soon after he returned home he spoke to a friend who played junior college baseball, a guy he had previously spoken to about steroids. He asked his friend for a supplier, who arranged a meeting.
"Tell me what you want to do," said the supplier, a bodybuilder.
"I need to throw 95 miles an hour," Naulty said, "and the only way I can see doing that is if I weigh 220 pounds."
It was an outrageous number. Naulty weighed 180. Ten pounds gained would have been a colossal amount for him. Forty? The supplier didn't blink: "I've got whatever you want."
The supplier injected him, a job Naulty would later learn to do himself. "Within a few days I started gaining weight," Naulty says, "and I was hooked. I started eating like a horse because when you take this stuff you just eat and eat and eat and you can work out like a fiend."
He reported to spring training the following season at 200 pounds and with several extra ticks on his fastball. The Twins' instructors were impressed. It was a cycle that would repeat itself every year: Naulty would use various steroids through the winter, gain muscle mass and velocity, and wow the coaches in camp. He would not use steroids during the season, causing him to lose some weight -- about 10 pounds if he had gained 20 -- and his numbers to fall off as the year progressed. Then it was back to an off-season of doping, with a veritable buffet of steroids. "We were mixing them," he says. "Some for size, some for speed. There was a steroid I took one off-season that was purely to speed your body up. You didn't gain any size at all. [Your arm speed] just got faster. The point was the faster I moved the harder I'd throw."
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