"What? You want to play?"
"Yeah. What else would I want to do?"
Naulty didn't say it, but he was thinking, What else would I not want to do?
It began to hit him: Naulty started playing baseball because he loved it, but he kept playing it because he had nothing else in his life. "My motives were no longer like Derek Jeter's," he says. "He plays—and this seems to be the case with all the great ones—because he loves it. I loved it as a child and parts of high school, and it started to fade and I should have stopped. Then I was tied to this steam train and couldn't get off. I thought I had to do anything I could to stay on this steam train because I had nothing else."
It was closer to sunrise than it was to midnight, and Naulty was the only one in the backseat of the limo who wasn't passed out from the night of drinking. The Yankees had won the 1999 World Series the previous evening, with Clemens finishing off a sweep of the Braves. Naulty had stopped drinking at three in the morning, an unusual act of restraint for him. The limo was rolling through Manhattan, making its way to the George Washington Bridge and eventually to Naulty's New Jersey condo. Naulty needed somebody to talk to. He did not know the limo driver—didn't even know his name—but he was the only other one in the car who wasn't asleep.
The driver pulled over. Naulty jumped out, opened the front passenger's door and sat down. The driver studied him with a bewildered look and resumed driving.
Naulty began to talk to the stranger. He had poured his very being into baseball, sacrificing character, health, friendships, education, morals ... everything. And yet at the pinnacle of that pursuit—he had just won the World Series as a New York Yankee—he felt a profound emptiness.
But he did not think about life at that moment. He thought about death. It was far from the first time. Naulty often thought about killing himself during his drug-and-alcohol-addled years. "Suicidal thoughts were a regular pattern for me," he says. "I'm surprised I'm living, man. Between all the drinking and driving I did and all the suicidal thoughts, how I'm alive is only by the grace of God."
The thoughts, however, never had been this powerful. Even at this late hour, the traffic on the bridge was heavy. The limo was crawling along. Almost once a month somebody leaps off the bridge, some 200 feet above the Hudson, to his or her death. Naulty had his hand on the handle of the door.