Broken Baseball Dreams
Broken Baseball Dreams.
-Live transcript of Mr. H.
So this story starts off how I was drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays. The 18th round, second overall pick out of Canada. I ended up going down to Florida for a year and a half. Went to spring training with the Toronto Blue Jays. Proceeded to go to Kansas and Missouri.
The thing is this whole time I had a long-term girlfriend. High school sweetheart of five years. So I decided to come back to Canada and play baseball for a year and be closer to her. The year was tough. We broke up. I had the worst year of my life….worst baseball season of my life. But I ended up playing summer ball with Lethbridge and with the Calgary Vipers. And lo and behold, a bunch of us went out after a game to celebrate at the bar that sponsored our team and I was playing the punching-bag machine. I got the record, but I broke my hand in the process… I tried pitching another one or two games but I could only throw fastballs. I couldn’t throw any off-speed pitches.
My dad was up in Fort McMurray at the time, and he was a boss so he got me a job. So I went with him for the next ten months or so. While my hand was healing up I was practicing out at the field-house in Fort McMurray. I was helping the kids and helping run a winter camp there and I was gonna coach baseball for the summer. And then I got a call from a coach down in Missouri. I have a twin brother. He’s a righty pitcher and threw 96 miles an hour. I’m a lefty pitcher and threw 95 miles an hour. The coach wanted my twin-brother and I both to come down and play for him for the spring season.
So, we quit our jobs. We both had money in the bank. However, my twin brother kind of dittle-dattled in…in…um…pills. My dad’s girlfriend at the time…her father passed away so she had 600 OxyContin and about 3000 Tylenol-3s. We had that on us, and I had some ecstacy on me as well. Two young guys, not thinking we’d ever get pulled over. Just two ball players going from Canada to the States to play baseball. We got to the border and they told us, “Pull over into the garage. We’re gonna search you.” So I stuffed the ecstacy in my sock, knowing full well they were gonna strip-search us if they found the pills. Umm, they found the ecstacy. They found the ecstacy first….
How it happened was they found ecstacy in one sock and I said, “There’s some more in the other,” and they said, “…Yeah…don’t worry, we’re gonna get to that…” Hahahaha. Yeah, we got caught. Me and my brother were full of questions at the border because our life was flashing before our eyes. We were 21 and we’d never been in trouble with the law before, like this. And it was kind of a shock to our system, and we were scared to death because we did not know what we were going to tell our coach, what we were going to tell our mom… We didn’t know…
…When I was six years old…I’d never played organized sports, never played hockey because it was too expensive. Baseball was a cheaper sport and they were starting up a team in this small town in Saskatchewan where we lived. Kamsack. And my stepdad was gonna help coach. Right off the bat, my twin brother and I, we were playing t-ball when we were 6 years old, and we were hurting kids so they moved us up to play with the 9 year old’s. And when me and my brother would throw the baseball we quickly learned and realized that within days of actually playing baseball that we could throw the ball way further than anybody else and we could hit the ball way further than anybody else. As we got older we were always the stars.
We played on our older brother’s baseball team, and the very first at-bat I ever had with our older brother’s bantam pee-wee team…I was only 7 years old, he was 11…his teammates were 11, 12 and 13 and I was the little kid and my stepdad was coaching his team at the time. The first at bat I ever had on his team I hit a home-run. My first at bat. And everybody’s like, “That’s…that’s…your little brother?” And the legend grew. The legend grew. The legend grew.
My twin brother and I were always the stars on the team. But we went to this one town and they already had their players. So we were back-up players. But we were…we were the best on the team. Well, except for Bryan Bickell who plays for the Chicago Blackhawks, we were the best on the team. So we were playing backup and we never knew that role before.
Then came time when they really need us during the provincials and they played us. It was a small town. Campbellford, Ontario. They’d had these guys for 10 years…all close-knit guys…they didn’t want guys coming in for one year and taking people’s positions. So they had us backup. They’d actually switch my brother and I out in games. I’d go in and then he’d go in for me. The coach…everybody knew it…the parents knew it…we were the best on that team.
Right before Provincials, my brother starts hitting home-runs and they start pitching me more. I won four games out of five games in provincials. I won the MVP of provincials. My brother won two ‘Game MVP’s’ during the provincials. I was the Ontario Provincial MVP of 2002. We even have our rings from that. That was the year where we were backups…
During the banquet, the end of the year league banquet of the town, our coach got up and introduced our team as the provincial champs and he said, “There were a lot of fans in this crowd. There were probably a thousand or more fans. You know, probably none of you guys might never play in front of that many people again,” and I remember as a kid, thinking, ‘Fuck you guy! I’ll play in front of way more people than that.’ I remember thinking that as those words came out of his mouth, ‘I’ll be way better than that. You watch me.’ I had like a 45 second big frustration, ‘Don’t fucking tell me that’s the last time I fucking play for that many people.’ That’s how I took it, as a competitor…
The very next year we move to Edmonton, Alberta, but we took a half a year off. We joined a baseball team. Our older brother lived out there already. He hooked us up with the S.E.E.B.A Cardinals (South Edmonton Elite Baseball Association), a brand new team that’d just formed. So we got on with them and they had great coaches and great programs…everything. The first game of the year gets snowed out, so we have a little scrimmage. My brother was pitching. Nobody wanted to face him because he threw so fucking hard. So I was like, “Ah fuck it, I’ll go against him. Let’s go buddy.” So he pounds me in and I get a little knubber near the hands of the bat and I just squeak one over there and he picks it up and runs over to first base and I slid and he jumped and landed on my arm. Broke my arm. My whole age 15 season done. Age 16 and 17 is when I made Team Alberta. I made two Team Alberta teams, 16 and under, and 17 and under. And that year was the year I realized, I might actually have a future in baseball.
So I go from being a back-up player in Campbellford, Ontario, to playing and making Team Alberta as a 16 year old, and then as a 17 year old making Team Alberta, Team 17 Team Alberta, and also playing the Junior National Team. So within two years I went from being a backup on this stupid-assed small Ontario team to playing for Team Canada…to being one of the best 17 players in Canada. My brother was an alternate on that team.
So to put that into perspective, in this shit town in this shit province in this shit country…I’m a backup. Then two years later I’m a center-fielder/left-handed pitcher for the junior national team. Three years later, in 2005, I’m drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays.
I got flown out to Montreal for Adidas camp, which is a Top 45 Player in Canada invite. They fly you out there, they give you box seats; they treat you like a pro. They treat you like a big-leaguer. They bring in all the big-league guys to come talk to you and prep you up and let you know what’s coming for your future. There were probably close to 100 scouts…from colleges to universities to big-league teams. I got carded for the first time by seven major league teams from that thing because I was throwing 81 to 85 miles an hour. They give you a business card and they give you a player info card that you fill it out with all your information and then they have your scouting report on it. But it’s the first time when major league teams are approaching you. Like MAJOR LEAGUE teams are approaching you!
As a kid that had no background with…like…nobody knew what’s going on from my family. So, it’s all like a whirlwind thing. And you get back, and the next year, you’re 17, you’re getting invited and playing on the junior national team, you got scouts at every one of your games. I hit 91 miles an hour one time and scouts were all over me. At one time I was projected to go in the top ten rounds, so I was projected to get like a $150,000 signing bonus. But all of us from this area, we would have signed for a fucking bucket of baseballs. We didn’t give two shits about the money. We just wanted to play pro-ball.
…Coming from training your whole life, from six years old, to playing baseball as an adult and getting paid to do it. You just never know when it’s gonna end and you just never expect it to end with a punching bag machine and a border.
My brother and I got arrested, and were in there for three days. We actually got thrown in jail with two other ball players from Canada, going to North Dakota to play baseball. They got thrown in jail for possession of steroids. We got pulled over, I believe, because the night before those two other ball players from Canada were caught with possession of drugs. So, of course the next group of ball player from Canada were going to get pulled over and checked for steroids, but they found everything but steroids.
We were trying to figure out who was going to take the blame for what. I took the blame for the ecstacy and my brother took the blame for everything else. So, we are sitting in jail and the bail bond is $3,500 American for each of us. What they did was they dressed us in our orange jumpsuits and they ran us to town every day to get money out to pitch towards the bail. Our Canadian bank cards did not work in the US, so we had to use the ATM machine and they only accepted $300 at a time, and you can only do three transfers a day. That is $900 a day, so we had to do that for three days.
For three days, we were brought into town wearing our jumpsuits. That was pretty embarrassing, you know, when you get an old lady looking at ya…you feel like a criminal…you really feel like a piece of shit…bottom of the barrel…how the fuck?…I was supposed to be going to play baseball. I am not supposed to be going to town in a jumpsuit, sitting in a fucking prison cell. Where did I go wrong? And I’ve asked myself that many times since as well.
We were released, finally. My brother and I drove back through a snowstorm to my mom’s house and explained what was going on. Luckily my mom is a very understanding person. Of course we did not give her all the details, but we, you know, we gave her the jist of it. We get back to my mom’s house and, fuck, I go through bag and there’s three ecstacy pills still in my bag. So that’s what I did that night. Hahaha! And they missed one container of OxyContin, which we threw in the garbage.
We called up the head border-control guy and he let us know that we were allowed to go across the border until the charges had gone through and we were actually being charged and the process was done. So we were like, “Okay, great. So you mean we’re allowed to go back into the States?” The two other guys we were in jail with were also allowed to proceed into the States and they actually went on to play in North Dakota for that whole season because they just kept on pushing the court date back. We thought we were able to do that.
About two weeks later…after giving excuse after excuse after excuse to this coach of why we hadn’t been there yet…and he keeps on telling us he’s holding onto roster spots for us, we finally felt compelled to give it another go across the border. We spent a good three or four hours cleaning out my brother’s car. And, uhh, thought we got everything….thought we got everything…
We knew damn well they were going to search us at the border, so as soon as we pulled up to the border they pulled us over and said, “You guys can go wait in there. We’re gonna search the vehicle.” They asked each of us, “Do either of you guys do drugs of any sort? Smoke weed? Whatever?” and I said, “I smoke once in a while.” My brother said, “No. I never do drugs.”
They came back in about an hour later and they held up a one-hitter pipe with about 30 cents worth of weed in it and they said, “Who does this belong to, I am guessing it’s you since you’re the one who smokes weed?” But, it was my friend Jeff’s, from probably three years prior. He’d lost it and always asked us about it. We’d never known where it was. How they found it…I have no idea. How the previous border control never found it…I have no idea. But these people found it, so I had to take the blame obviously because I’d already confessed to smoking weed. So they kept my brother there for three or four hours, until the banks were closed, so he couldn’t go back to Canada and get my bail money.
It was another $3,500 American. Luckily I’d just left Fort McMurray or else I would have been in jail still. Hahaha. You know? Not many people have $7,000 American just to post bail every two weeks…
So, I’m in there and…I’ve already been through the process so this time I’m a little bit more cocky. I’m not all questioning and playing all innocent and all this other stuff. I pretend I know what my rights are and what’s going on and, “Fuck this is bullshit!” We get to the jail and they put me in there all by myself. It’s a nice, big, jail-cell. The TV’s on. It’s a two person cell but you have your own room, and there’s the TV room, and then there’s another room for another cellmate. They lock up your doors at about nine o’clock so you can’t watch the TV anymore and you’re just in your cell.
About ten o’clock they bring in another guy and he’s got half of the hair on his head missing from a burn. I was talking to him for a good two hours about how he got taken down. He ran a meth lab. I didn’t know about meth or anything at this time. I didn’t know anything about what meth could do to a person. Hahaha. But this guy looked like…if you thought about meth…this is what the guy would look like. That’s how bad this guy was.
I only had to stay in there two nights that time. When they were letting me out the officer told me, “Just so you know kid, if you ever decide to have kids of your own. You make sure you know why their dad can’t take them to Disneyland.” And I thought, ‘Well, that’s pretty fucking rude for fucking thirty cents worth of weed when you guys can shoot people that walk on your property!’ and I told him, “Your laws are backwards in this country and you’re all fucked! Take me back to my fucking country!”
So, they drove me back to the border, where it was pretty much straight out of a movie…like my brother handed over the briefcase and they handed me over. Hahaha. It was pretty much, my brother brought the cash and they released me. I walked across from the US border to the Canadian border. My brother had to stay on the Canadian side, so I had to walk to the Canadian side, a good 150 foot walk…a lonely walk…but I was a free man! Hahahah!
We ended up driving back. My brother ended up staying in this little shit town in Saskatchewan. We stopped at his hotel where he stayed the nights prior that I spent in jail. He stayed in this hotel for a couple of nights and he took me and showed me the room. It was probably about a $4 a night room. He shared a bathroom with about 10 other people in this hotel. It was smaller than my jail-cell, this hotel. Hahaha! So I kinda felt like he got his too. Hahah!
All in all my brother went on to play professional baseball for the Yuma Scorpions. He’s played baseball throughout the States. But he retired when he was 23. I retired I guess when I was 21, not on my own terms. It is one of the saddest things because when we were young people always told us, “There’s a time to party and there’s a time to go wild and there’s a time to choose your friends properly, and now is not the time. When your career is over, that’s the time that you can make up for all of your hard training…” I wish I’d made better decisions. I let a lot of people down. I let myself down. Let my family down. Let my future… I… I threw my future away. I wasted all the hard work…all the dedication…and all the money that anyone ever invested in me. And, to this day it’s a hard pill to swallow. I’m 30 now, and I still wake up with cold sweats sometimes for the poor decisions I’ve made. But…what can you do?… You’ve got to move on, push forward every day and learn from it…learn from your mistakes… I don’t plan on ever ending up in jail again and I don’t plan on letting people down like that again. You know, you never think it’s going to happen to you. That’s why even to this day I hate to watch Border Patrol…I just, ‘Fuck! Fuck you people!’ I hate watching people get screwed over like that. I was a nice guy. I was a good guy. I made a poor decision and it cost me my future. It cost me the rest of my life. My friends still play baseball in the big leagues, that I was better than, that I was drafted higher than, that I outperformed. They’re there, and I’m here, coating pipes on the pipeline. And that’s a hard lesson to learn…you may be better than some people but if you don’t have the right mindset, if you’re not willing to want it as bad as you want to breathe then it’ll never come to you. And apparently I didn’t, and that’s why…it didn’t work out…