"Dad," Dan told Richard, "I think I'm going to quit."
"Quit? Quit what? Quit baseball? You're going to quit now? After you've gone all this way?"
"Yes. It's killing me. Don't you understand that? My life is so destructive I could blow my brains out at any moment."
The competitor inside Dan Naulty already was dead. Naulty pitched horribly in camp and didn't care. The Dodgers released him before the end of spring training. He went home to Tustin, Calif., and was happy. He went to church every night. He talked to pastors.
A month after his release, the Royals called. They wanted to see him throw. They flew him to Florida, where he showed enough for the Royals to sign him and ship him to Triple A Omaha. He was horrible there too. The Royals released him after he threw just 1 2/3 innings—long enough to give up eight walks and nine runs.
His agent, Scott Boras, told him if he wanted another shot, he would have to find someplace to keep pitching. He wound up with an independent team in Atlantic City. He went 2--4 with a 5.54 ERA in 17 games. After that, Naulty was sure he was finished with baseball. All he wanted was to be a pastor.
It has been 10 years since Caminiti came clean, the Senate called its hearing and the players and the owners agreed to test for steroids. The game has changed. Penalties for using steroids were tightened in 2005. Amphetamines were banned as well. "I believe they're trying to make it better," Brett Roberts says. "Before Ken Caminiti, I don't even know that they were trying. I want to believe the good in the game. I really do. I want to believe they want a clean game and healthy players."
But every year, the cloverleaves of minor league fields are filled with dreamers. The line between the minors and the majors can be so thin, and yet the difference between crossing it or not is everything.
What would you do to cross that line, even for a day? Even with testing, the answer for many is to use drugs. Since 2005, there have been 527 violations of the drug testing agreement by minor league players and 35 by major leaguers—about 70 confirmed cheats every year. One of the most common causes of a failed test is the drug stanozolol, also known as Winstrol, an old school steroid that can be injected or taken in tablet form. It is a favorite among body builders and ballplayers because it adds lean muscle mass and strength without excessive weight gain.
Cheaters can use fast-acting testosterone creams and gels to keep their testosterone-to-epitestosterone ratio below the allowable 4-to-1 threshold. They can use HGH, which functions more as recovery agent than strength builder, virtually all year long. This season, baseball became the first major American pro sport to use a blood test for HGH, but the program amounts to one announced test: Players know they will be screened when they show up for spring training, and not again during the season. Still, the testing protocols over 10 years appear to have slowed the cheating considerably.