Not this time: Just minutes after the declaration, Sheffield, collecting baseballs following his turn in the cage, stepped on a ball that had rolled under a tarp. Again, his right ankle buckled and swelled. Still, he missed no time. But on May 22 Sheffield rolled the ankle again while trying to break up a double play in a 4-3 win over the Cincinnati Reds. He finally missed two games—both of them Los Angeles losses—a remarkable performance by someone who should have been on the disabled list. Through Sunday he had only four stolen bases in eight attempts.
So he has found other, more subtle ways to help out. With Green struggling (through Sunday he was hitting only .207 since the All-Star break), Sheffield has been increasingly pitched around. Against Milwaukee last Friday night he came to the plate with no outs in the bottom of the eighth and Mark Grudzielanek on first. Sheffield didn't get much to hit from righty reliever Juan Acevedo. On 3-and-2 he hit a slow roller down the third base line, moving Grudzielanek, who was running on the pitch, into scoring position. Two batters later Eric Karros drove in Grudzielanek with what would be the winning run in the Dodgers' 2-1 victory. "Whatever it takes," said Grudzielanek, "that's what Sheff is willing to do."
That's why Sheffield had been walked a league-high 81 times ("I hate walking," he says, "but if they're not going to pitch to me....") and why he had struck out only 48 times. "Guys who hit for that much power aren't supposed to have that discipline," says Green. "It's remarkable." It's also why his ankle, routinely in need of pre- and postgame treatment, doesn't prevent him from playing day after day. "I believe in the Dodgers' winning a World Series," he says. "Just not with me watching from the bench."
When he was with the Marlins, Sheffield owned a limousine service and a graphic arts company. Both have been shut down because Sheffield didn't want the distraction from baseball. He owns a swanky 15,000-square-foot St. Petersburg home—"my dream house," he says. That home is on the market, and DeLeon and Gary are looking at land in Orlando's Isleworth community on which they'll build their dream house. Once he was a regular on the club scene. Not now. "I've decided that I'm a baseball player, a husband and a father," he says. "That's enough."
Sheffield belongs to two churches, one in Los Angeles and one in Tampa. They each are receiving 5% of his six-year, $61 million contract. "We went to church one day," he says. "We were going over the Scripture about doing something you never thought you would do. I never thought I'd be giving away 10% of my money."
He says this with a sarcastic grin. It was late last Friday night in Los Angeles. The Dodgers' clubhouse was emptying. Sheffield grabbed his portable CD player and wrapped the headphones around his neck. He was about to listen to My Life, Richards's 1996 release. "My wife is going to be a star," says Sheffield. "I have no doubt about it."
With that he exited the stadium. Sheffield had a wife to get home to. He could hardly wait.
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