- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
- TAMPA BAY buccaneersENEMY lines WHAT A RIVAL COACH SAYSJune 28, 2012
- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
"Tell me," he said to the driver. "Tell me if this is all there is to life. Because if this is all there is, just stop this car right now and I'll jump."
The driver looked at Naulty like he was crazy.
"He was so scared, he didn't say anything," Naulty says. "But I was serious. I had no hope. I had sold myself that bill of goods so long that I believed it. But I realized at that moment I had totally destroyed my life. And I had destroyed countless other people's lives. I was ready to die."
Not long after the 1999 World Series, the National League champion Braves invited Jeff Horn to their major league spring training camp. Horn had been one of Naulty's closest friends. They both grew up in Southern California, and when Horn arrived at Cerritos Junior College after transferring from Oklahoma State, Naulty had reached out and made him feel welcome. The Twins drafted Horn in the 47th round in 1992, the same year they took Naulty, Linebarger and Legault. Over the next five years Naulty and Horn were teammates in three cities in the Minnesota farm system. But while Naulty moved up to the Show, Horn became a real life Crash Davis, a hard-nosed catcher who loved loud guitars, hard rock and the nuances of catching.
Horn had never been in a big league camp. By the end of 1999 he was 29 and had kicked around the minor leagues for eight seasons as a career backup, never playing more than 79 games in a season. The Twins dumped him after he played in only 24 games in '98 at Triple A. The Dodgers picked him up and released him. Then the Braves signed him for the 1999 season and demoted him to Double A, where he hit .229.
The idea of major league camp with the NL champions was powerful. "It's all I ever wanted since I was eight years old," he says. "After so many years, I was finally getting an opportunity, an opportunity to use everything at my fingertips to make a good impression."
As Naulty was thinking of leaving baseball, Horn was contemplating whether to take the plunge with steroids. By then PEDs were so prevalent in the game that players had started to whisper among themselves about who was on them and what worked best. Horn knew a handful of players who were juicing. He noticed guys reporting to camp with 30 pounds of muscle they didn't have five months earlier. He overheard hushed conversations about steroids.
Horn knew steroids were wrong, illegal and dangerous, but ... this was big league camp! He talked to a guy at the gym, a bodybuilder who was a chemist, to learn about steroids. He went back and forth in his mind for weeks.
One day Horn sat down at his computer and went on the Internet. He found a website. They would ship steroids from Europe to his front door. He placed his order, typed in his credit card information, and it was done. He panicked a bit. He worried that as soon as he accepted the package on his front porch an entire police department would be there to arrest him. He worried that his heart would explode as soon as he injected the steroids.