Back when the Mitchell Report was released, one figure named as having purchased from noted supplier Kirk Radomski was Jim Parque, a pitcher whose career with the White Sox was cut short by injury at the beginning of the decade. You probably never even had him on a fantasy baseball team.
(”All right, Kenny, let’s go over this again. I’m a seedy clubhouse assistant, and you’re a pitcher with a heart of gold. ‘Do you want me to sell you any drugs?’ Now say ‘no’ and beat me with a fungo bat.”)
But Parque did take the opportunity at the time to admit his usage rather than engage in vague non-speak about the report’s allegation, itself a brave move but one ultimately forced rather than voluntary. Parque’s letter to the CHICAGO SUN-TIMES about his HGH use today, however, was totally voluntary, not to mention gut-wrenching in its portrayal of the decisions he faced:
[I]n 2000, I went 13-6 with a 4.28 ERA and was given the ball to represent the great city of Chicago against the Seattle Mariners in Game 1 of the American League Division Series. […]
It was the sixth inning. There were two outs, and John Olerud was up. I had retired the last nine batters I had faced and was on my way to securing a Chicago victory. I threw a slider, striking him out looking, but I felt a pop in my left shoulder. I returned to the dugout filled with adrenaline, but the fear of the unknown clouded my thoughts. I had sacrificed so much for my dreams — no girls or partying in high school, a limited social life, sacrificing a normal life for the rigors of baseball — and just like that, with one pitch, it was all gone.
Parque describes the ineffectual nature of his rehab, leaving him with what he described as a “75 mph fastball,” and the drop off in performance made the Sox’ decision to release him in 2002 an easy one, from a front office standpoint. At that point, Parque’s career was in trouble.
With my career in jeopardy, I turned to performance-enhancing drugs, like some other players did. I never had needed them before, but with a shoulder that wouldn’t heal, it was realistically the only thing I could turn to.
Work harder, you say? Take vitamins and get in better shape? Did it, and I was rewarded with pathetic Triple-A stats, a fastball now in the low 80s and an average high school curveball.
I prided myself on working hard every day, eating properly and taking care of my body. For those of you who think otherwise, have you ever seen me in person? I stand 5-11 and weigh 185 pounds. I graduated high school at 5-5, 132 pounds. I looked like William Hung, another reason I spent many a dateless night in high school.
Parque then describes - in unusually specific detail - his use of the drug itself. But he really missed an opportunity for real drug education here:
I began to throw harder because my shoulder felt no pain. I was able to withstand more throwing, creating a work environment that I had not experienced in two years.
The negative thoughts of baseball ending were soon replaced with a euphoric sensation that I would resurrect my shattered career and be able to provide, once again, for my family. However, because I took only a few injections, the results were short-lived.
I could have continued to use the rest of the HGH to stay competitive. I could have continued to put my body at risk, but I did not. I realized that my priorities were not focused on my family. The euphoric feelings that HGH provided were false and clouded my ability to think clearly. I also felt I was risking long-term health issues that could jeopardize my family.
What would have been nice is a better explanation of how the results were short-lived. Did his shoulder’s health regress to pre-HGH levels? Was it just a matter of post-workout pain lasting longer - and how long?
We’re not accusing Parque of holding back information on us - surely, this letter to fans is anything but that - but it seems like he’s (understandably) most concerned with justification of his own decision-making at the time.
Parque’s story ends well; he lives a decent life in Washington as a coach, he’s still got the family he started with his wife in Chicago, and everybody’s happy. And really, considering his straits - leave the lucrative world of baseball without real-world job skills, or take a dangerous, non-banned substance to try to stay in the game? - it’s pretty easy to see why many players, surely including more we’ve not heard of nor do we suspect as users, chose to go the HGH route and keep the dream alive, even if that’s all it is.