JUCO players understand they don’t need to take steroids to play their best

Dale Murphy signs autographs at Alpine Bank at a JUCO pre-party.

Major League Baseball rosters are dotted with guys who played in the Alpine Bank Junior College World Series. More than 100 former and current big-league players have come through Grand Junction.

It’s possible one of the players in this year’s tournament will at some point be tempted by the money, fame and power.

And these days, that temptation can lead to the use of performance enhancing drugs.

Last Friday at the tournament banquet, keynote speaker and former Atlanta Braves All-Star Dale Murphy reminded the players in attendance they don’t have to take steroids to make their dreams become reality.

“I want to tell young players to make sure they do it the right way, there are some challenges our there like performance enhancing drugs, and I am going to remind them that they don’t have to do it,” Murphy said at the banquet. “Not everyone is doing that, and the perception is you have to do that to make it, I’m just reminding them to make the right decisions and have the integrity to make the right decisions. Sometimes there are some temptations, and they don’t have to take that to succeed.”

But for an 18- to 20-year-old junior college baseball player attempting to impress big-league scouts and Division I college coaches, how real is the steroid temptation?

“If one guy were to (use steroids), they would see the results, which can be bad, but performance-wise they can be good,” Cowley County catcher Mac Gordon said. “I think they would jump on that bandwagon and try it.”

Cowley was Gordon’s second junior college after spending his freshman season at North Central Texas, and said he wasn’t exposed to performance enhancers at either school.

“I have never been around it,” Gordon said. “I know different teams that have been in the past, but personally I’ve never been around that, which is good, because I don’t want to be around it.”

During Murphy’s speech, he touched on a tougher penalty for players who get caught using steroids. Rather than 50-game suspensions, Murphy said baseball should take a similar stance to gambling. If a player is caught using performance enhancer’s he should be banned from the game, Murphy suggested.

Santa Fe (Fla.) College outfielder Ryan Mathews said he would at least like to see more testing at the junior college level.

“I think it’s easy for a junior college player do it without getting caught,” Mathews said. “I think that’s what a lot of people in (junior college) face, they have a lot more pressure to do it to get to the next level. I think they should try and get testing put in place so that temptation isn’t there, because steroids isn’t fair at any level.”

San Jacinto (Texas) College-North coach Tom Arrington said the Gators test their players throughout the year for drugs to make sure they are clean and doing things the right way.

“We don’t condone (steroids), and do drug tests at our level, and we are very focused and aware that it does hurt and is detrimental to young people,” Arrington said. “We are proud of what we do, and want to try to address that issue in our small group at San Jacinto College.”

Arrington’s third baseman, Danny Hernandez, said the Gators have played a few clubs that have made him wonder if they had extra help.

“There are some teams who are just jacked and bigger than you are and you can tell they are doing something,” Hernandez said. “But we go out there and perform and still beat them. Our team is all natural, we really are never the biggest team out here.”

Hernandez discussed players like Barry Bonds, Alex Rodriguez and Manny Ramirez, who have all had their legacies tarnished with steroid or suspected steroid use. Hernandez said it’s sad to see players he grew up watching hurt the game.

“I still think they are still good baseball players, I don’t think it takes away from that,” Mathews said. “But it’s the integrity of the game, and you lose a little respect that they did that, but people make mistakes.”

So while the temptation might be there, this year’s JUCO players say they’ve avoided the urge.

“Everyone wants to play at their best,” Shelton State’s Brett Whitaker said. “But you don’t have to do that to be your best.”


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