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Keeping eye out for foul balls, substances

Saturday, July 27, 2013 - 8:12 am

My wife Shelli and I were going through old VCR tapes the other day, and I found one from Sports Illustrated in 1998 featuring Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa and the great home-run race in that season.

I ended up replaying it with my son Logan, and he watched it for about 15 minutes, and then went outside to play and have fun in this wonderful weather. Logan's only 51/2 years old, but he's a very smart boy.

For a while Logan was intrigued by all those long home runs, and the crowds cheering wildly. But then after a while, the thrill was gone, and so was he.

That reflected how I felt about watching National League slugger Ryan Braun get suspended for the rest of the season this week for alleged performance-enhancement drug usage.

Shelli and I traveled to Miller Park in Milwaukee 2007 to see the relatively new ballpark, and we had fun, even though it came at a price.

I was hit in the head by a long foul ball during batting practice that almost would have been a home run if it wasn't just pre-game hitting. As I was getting my bearings after the baseball glanced off my head, I turned to Shelli to say something. Probably, “DID YOU SEE THAT?!”

But what happened next quickly changed my mood. A young woman had put her arm around me, and asked with concern in her voice, “Are you OK?” As I assured her that I was, she quickly grabbed the baseball which had smacked me.

And she raced off with the ball. All I had was a mark on my face, and one angry fan who saw it all happen yelled, “Hey, the ball hit him in the head, he should get the ball!” Having a sore head and a feeling of having been cheated is kind of how MLB fans felt after McGwire and Sosa were found to have used steroids in that magical season.

McGwire has been somewhat rehabilitated in some fans' eyes with his hitting coach work in St. Louis with the Cardinals. Sosa has stayed for the most part out of sight. Both have been missing by huge margins their hoped-for Hall of Fame selections from unhappy sportswriters since then

I thought of all that when Milwaukee's Ryan Braun this week was suspended for the rest of the 2013 season because of his use of PEDs. Last season, he skipped out on MLB's punishment because the tester allegedly mishandled his urine sample. He had no such luck this time.

For all I know, Braun could have hit the ball which glanced off my noggin that July day.

Ever since then, I have paid much closer attention to what's happening on the field when I'm in the stands at a TinCaps game or anywhere they're playing ball.

And MLB is paying much better attention by their testing more players for illegal substances.

We've both learned our lessons.

Also this week, MLB announced suspensions of Cleveland minor leaguer SS Rubiel Martinez and New York Yankees minor leaguer LHP Anderson Severino 50 games each after positive tests for metabolites of Stanozolol under the Minor League Drug Prevention and Treatment Program.

Martinez was, according to an Associated Press story, hitting about .170 in minor-league ball. I'd advise the young man to consider a career change at this point.

Detroit Tigers pitcher Max Scherzer was among MLB players who reacted strongly to Braun's suspension. He told Tigers.com website: “The whole thing has been despicable on his part,” he said. “For me, as a player, you want to believe the system works, but obviously he found a way around it. And when he did get caught, he never came clean. He tried to question the ability of the collector. And he was caught red-handed. That's why there's so much player outrage toward him, because of how brash he was toward MLB and how brash he was in his defense.

“I'm glad he got caught.”

I agree.

This column is the commentary of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of The News-Sentinel. Email Rick Rimelspach at rrimelspach@news-sentinel.com.