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Old 08-07-2004, 10:14 AM   #89 (permalink)
Tib
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Chapter 11: The Crack of the Bat, Part Two

He started in high school, on a dare. He was a good kid, never in trouble with the law, from a successful family. At first he used his own money to buy it, but later stole from his parents to fund his habit. By the time he was eighteen he had destroyed an otherwise decent GPA and had drained his entire college fund. That’s why he had to declare for the draft out of high school. He was supposed to go to Texas A&M, but they caught wind of a problem and rescinded his scholarship. That’s how his parents found out. Dave was kicked out of college before he ever went in. Dave Guevara was addicted to crack cocaine.

His parents demanded he enter a treatment program. He convinced them that his only chance left was to get drafted, to devote himself entirely to baseball. He promised them if he got drafted, he would enter treatment. Atlanta took him, not knowing about his drug use. He completed a very expensive, very discreet ninety-day treatment program, got clean, and left for Hinesville. The last thing he packed for the trip was his crack pipe.

I don’t understand why people take drugs. It never makes things any better. You are always sacrificing something for that high. I was never willing to compromise anything for the sake of something so dangerous, not to mention illegal. But I’m not everybody, and I have certainly made enough mistakes in my own life. I’ve never condemned anyone for making mistakes, even mistakes as grave as Dave’s, when they try to make it right.

The trouble is, it’s almost impossible to simply stop. First it takes its toll on your body, then your bank account, and then it starts eroding your life. That’s what happened to Dave. As I sat next to him in Theo’s office, listening to the story spill out, watching his tears splash on Theo’s ratty blue carpet, I realized that Dave Guevara was a young man at the end of his rope. He told me everything, as he must have told his parents, as he must have told Theo and Bobby. I tell you, nobody should have to tell his story three times. It was very difficult for me to hear. I can’t imagine what it was like for Dave to confess to his parents, to his coaches and now to a teammate. It must have torn him apart inside. At the time I was just shocked to the core. Looking back now, remembering how he laid himself open like that, I think it was one of the gutsiest things I’ve ever seen.

I cursed myself silently while I sat there. How could I not see it? Dave said he never used on game days, but over the course of last year he did seem to be more fatigued. He was as fast as ever, but his endurance declined. He would disappear after games, reappear late to practice. At times he would get very jumpy and irritable. He didn’t socialize with anyone. I couldn’t understand how I couldn’t have seen the signs, but now I know that addicts are excellent actors. Plus, I wasn’t exactly an expert in spotting the symptoms of drug use.

“Dave, I’m so sorry,” I said to him when he was done. “I had no idea.”
“None of us did, at first,” said Gable.
“But you found out eventually,” I said. “And you didn’t do anything.”
“We did. Doc saw him, helped him. We watched him, talked to him. But it wasn’t enough.”
“Why didn’t you put him in a hospital?”
Theo and Gable were silent. I got mad. I stood. I wanted to hit them.
“Why didn’t you put him in a hospital?”
“It would have ruined my career,” said Dave. “There would have been medical records. There would have been proof what I was there for, what treatment I got. If the team found out, that’s it. I’d be done. My parents would’ve found out. They would never have forgiven me. I betrayed them. They did everything for me. Don’t you see, Davey? That’s one error I can’t afford to make.”
“So you were going to trust Theo and Bobby to get you straight? That’s crazy.”
Dave looked up at me like I slapped him. His face was a grimace of torment. “What was I supposed to do?” he yelled tearfully. “Besides, they know what they’re doing.”
“What do you mean?”
Theo spoke. “Do you think Guevara is the only crack addicted ballplayer we’ve ever seen?”

“Jesus Christ, this is crazy,” I said.
Gable put a hand on my shoulder. “I know this is a lot to take in, Davey. It’s been a long, hard day. But listen: this has got to stay in this room. Dave will get clean, but it will take awhile. Two weeks, at least.”
“This, this is -.”
“It’s okay, Davey,” said Dave. “They’re going to look after me. I’ll be all right.”
“How, Dave?” I asked. “How are you going to be all right?”
“He’ll go on the 15-day DL,” said Theo. “He won’t need to come to the ballpark. We couldn’t have any of the team see him, anyway. He has to go away. He’ll stay with me.”
How am I not going to say anything to Moose? To Yoogie? To J.R.?
“I don’t think I can keep this secret,” I said.
“If you want to save this young man’s career, you will,” said Gable.
“Please, Davey,” said Dave. “In two weeks I’ll be straight. I’ll be back. It’ll be just like old times. It’ll be you and me, turning two. It’ll be business as usual.”

I was twenty years old. I should not have been faced with this decision. I thought of Hal Fitzwalter. They’re going to test you, he had said. I thought of Theo that day in his office. Guys will look to you as a role model. I didn’t want to be a role model. I just wanted to play baseball. I couldn’t get involved in this now. I had my own career to focus on, and in case anyone wanted to know, it hadn’t been going too well so far. At that moment I didn’t feel too different from Dave Guevara. Maybe my own life was eroding, if only a little.

And so I come back to focus. It’s a wonderful thing, most of the time; all one’s energies assigned to accomplish a goal. But I wonder: if I hadn’t been so focused on myself those few months, would I have seen the warning signs? I turned two with the guy for more than a year. Could I have spotted the problem and done something for Dave before it reached this point? Probably not. I realized that my focus had become a selfish thing. I wasn’t just working on my game; I was excluding the other important things that helped me just as much: Moose’s sense of humor, J.R.’s quiet loyalty, Yoogie’s empathy, even Marisa’s gentle acceptance. People.

And that’s it, isn’t it? In the end it’s people who really make the difference. Cliff made a difference that night for Mooney. Sgt. Draper made a difference that night for Theo. That unnamed Savannah policeman made a difference that night for Moose and J.R. And here was Dave Guevara, sick as he was, trying to cover as much ground as he could. There was no way he could cover it all. As I did so many times in these situations, I thought of my dad. I remembered all the times he was there when I needed him. Sometimes you have to focus on things more important than baseball, he would have said.

In my head I heard the crack of the bat. I sprang to my left.

Next Week: Business As Usual

Last edited by Tib; 04-29-2010 at 12:41 AM.
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