I spent 30 minutes Monday talking with new Colorado Springs Sky Sox manager Glenallen Hill, and the majority of the conversation concerned his connection with human growth hormone and steroids.
A gleeful surprise ran through the conversation.
Hill laughed during much of our talk. Don’t get me wrong. He’s not dismissive of his mistakes. He just refuses to be weighed down by them.
“I have a tremendous amount of joy,” Hill said from his family’s home in Santa Cruz, Calif. “If I’m laughing it’s because I’m feeling joy.”
The tidal wave that was baseball’s steroid era has crested. I know cheaters are still out there, seeking to inflate their bodies even if it means tarnishing a precious game, but the worst is past.
Hill, 47, competed during the height of this sorry era, collecting 186 home runs and 586 RBIs while playing for seven teams from 1989-2001. The Mitchell Report, released in December 2007, detailed his transgressions.
He’s part of a line of cheaters who seek to participate in baseball’s mainstream. Mark McGwire, who busted Roger Maris’ single-season home run record with the aid of steroids, serves as batting instructor for the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Barry Bonds, who juiced his way past forever clean home-run king Hank Aaron, is lobbying to join the Hall of Fame. (Good luck on that one, Barry.)
And Hill will be leading our local Triple-A team. Doping is not an abstract issue with the Sky Sox. Infielder Omar Quintanilla and first baseman Mike Jacobs were suspended in recent seasons.
Hill is quick to say he made mistakes. And he’s quick to say he will share hard-won lessons with players and young people and anyone willing to listen.
My first question was about HGH and steroids. Several of my following questions followed the same script. Hill never complained.
“Oh, absolutely it’s fair,” he said of my line of questioning. “I think one of the things that make human experience so wonderful is that people can share their journey, you know.
“You either choose to help people or you don’t. If there are some things that I have done and they are public knowledge and I can help, I’m all for that. I think if you have a service mentality and you want to serve others, then you can be a good friend, a good student, a good grandmother, a good sister.”
And, maybe, a good minor-league manager.
Hill had his moments in the big leagues. On May 11, 2000, he walked to the plate at Wrigley Field as a member of the Chicago Cubs. He was facing Milwaukee’s Steve Woodard, who promptly threw two balls. Hill knew what was coming next.
“A sinker,” Hill said. “I planned to deliver the bat with severe impact.”
He made good on his plan, launched a towering drive clean out of Wrigley and across Waveland Avenue. The shot remains one of the longest in Cubs history.
But here’s the problem, and Hill must know it:
Everything he did on the baseball field is tainted. By polluting his body with performance-enhancing drugs, he blurred all his accomplishments.
He has a few.
“Kids really need to understand that performance-enhancing drugs is something that is not sustainable,” Hill said, his voice a serious whisper. “It is temporary. … What I mean is, it’s not real. It is not real and athletes have this awareness about themselves that is so real.
“They are aware of their bodies and their mind and performance-enhancing drugs cheat that experience, and I don’t think kids really understand the price that they will pay when they sacrifice themselves and take performance-enhancing drugs.”
Hill could have dodged my questions. He didn’t. He made mistakes, and he says so. He wants – or at least he says he wants – to employ his humiliations to help others.
I’m wishing him the best.
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