The December release of former Sen. George Mitchell's report on baseball's steroid problem ignited a firestorm of media inquiry and player denials. Bombshell names like Roger Clemens, Andy Pettitte, Miguel Tejada, and Gary Sheffield grabbed headlines for their alleged betrayal of the national trust.
Readers of the report could easily have skipped past the name of Daniel Naulty as they combed through the 311-page document. Naulty spent four seasons in the big leagues in the late 1990s, pitching three years for the Minnesota Twins before joining the New York Yankees for their championship run in 1999.
But the bullpen hurler's mention in the report carries significance far beyond his modest playing career. Naulty is one of the rare former players who cooperated fully with the Mitchell probe and the only one who expressed remorse to investigators. He told interviewers that "if I could give back a little bit of something good then I would like to."
Naulty did not need an official investigation to begin his quest for restitution-nor to admit his past steroid use. That began eight years ago on the stage of Calvary Chapel's flagship church in Costa Mesa, Calif. It was there that Naulty first publicly admitted his past addiction to performance-enhancing drugs and the results they produced. It was there that he first publicly acknowledged that his identity as a major league ballplayer was a fraud.
He left baseball for good the next spring and began full-time work in Christian ministry. "From the first time I shared my story, I was encouraged to never lose that honesty and transparency," Naulty said during an interview with WORLD. "The Mitchell report is just a continuation of that."
Naulty's road from a notorious night-lifer and committed cheater to the Calvary Chapel stage led him through moments of despair. Curiously, his deepest depression came on the heels of winning a World Series. Drunk from post-game celebration and on a limo ride home with several teammates, he suddenly felt the weight of hopelessness and reached out to the only sober ears on board: "I asked the driver, 'Is this all there is to life?'"
In the following days, that question continued to haunt Naulty. "I thought the World Series was going to be God; it was going to be salvation," he recalls. "And I realized after we won that it wasn't salvation. I was still in the exact same place I was two weeks ago, two months ago, or two years ago."
Finding no comfort in the ensuing victory parades and parties, Naulty turned to God and the story of redemption he'd heard and dismissed countless times from Christian teammates. He began attending church services-lots of church services-and felt the pangs of conviction for past shortcomings.
Paramount in his mind were the other players he'd beat out for roster spots. Naulty believes he never would have climbed higher than single-A ball had he not juiced. Doping took him from a scrawny 86-mph pitcher out of college to a muscled 95-mph stud three years later. "I was watching my so-called friends leave big league camp, beginning another grueling year in the minors, while I kept sticking needles in my butt and patting them on the back as they were dismissed," Naulty recalls. "I am deeply sorry for the damage I have caused others with my terrible choices."
As outlined in the Mitchell report, Naulty used steroids and human growth hormone off and on over a seven-year period beginning in 1993. He has spent the past seven years asking others to learn from his mistakes. Now, other ballplayers can learn from his example.
Goose Gossage is in-finally. Mark McGwire is out-still. The 2008 class granted entrance to baseball's Hall of Fame is more notable for its exclusions than its lone player inductee.
Just 23 percent of ballots included votes for McGwire, no change from the 23 percent he received in 2007 in his first year of eligibility. The retired slugger ranks eighth on the all-time career home runs list with 583, but rumors of steroid use color that achievement for many voters.
In his 14th year of eligibility, former Boston Red Sox outfielder Jim Rice also fell short of the 75 percent needed for induction, receiving 72 percent. The eight-time all-star has just one year of eligibility remaining.
Per its usual custom, the NFL is recruiting volunteers to perform various rehearsed gyrations on the field during the Feb. 3 Super Bowl halftime performance of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers at Phoenix Stadium. Groups of at least 10 people over 16 years old able to wiggle and willing to attend three days of rehearsals are invited to register at superbowlcast.com.
Volunteers are not allowed inside the stadium during the game but earn distinction as among the most culturally significant groupies in the world. Close to 140 million people tuned in to last year's halftime show featuring Prince.
For the first time in college football, a two-loss team has finished No. 1 in the Associated Press poll. But national champion LSU need not feel too sheepish given that all of the top six ranked teams also dropped two games on the year. If a two-loss team had to finish on top, why not the one that suffered both of its defeats in triple overtime, as LSU did?
Of course, several runners-up could make similarly strong claims for their rightful place atop the poll. Georgia, USC, and Kansas each received at least one first-place vote, the first four-way split since 1977.
Such uncertainty at the top, which remained consistent throughout the 2007 season, has pressed some major conference commissioners to reconsider instituting a final-four format into the Bowl Championship Series structure. Under that scenario the top four teams would play off to determine the national champion.
Commissioners from the SEC, ACC, Big East, and Big 12 have expressed openness to the idea while heads of the Pac-10 and Big Ten remain opposed. Some decision-makers fear that any expansion of playoffs would undermine the importance of other bowls and diminish profits.
For his part, LSU coach Les Miles found this year's non-playoff result sufficiently agreeable. In the wake of LSU's 38-24 trouncing of Ohio State in the BCS championship game Jan. 7, he admitted other programs may have more talent, "but this is the best team."