Former Orioles outfielder Jay Gibbons was chased out of the major leagues for using anabolic steroids.
One of the 100+ names mentioned in the now famous Mitchell Report, Gibbons was one of the first-and one of the few-players to be suspended for using anabolic steroids.
That, prompted by a slow start to the 2008 season, caused the Orioles to release Gibbons in the spring of 2008, and Gibbons never played in a major league game again.
Up until this week, as Gibbons was called up from Triple-A Albuquerque and joined his hometown Los Angeles Dodgers.
Gibbons homered, his first in almost three years, in the Dodgers 15-9 victory over the Phillies Wednesday night, while driving in three runs.
Gibbons was able to spend a few minutes with WNST’s own Rex Snider Thursday to talk about his accomplishment in fighting his way back to the big leagues, this time in the right way, and he is having the time of his life because he’s back doing what he loves.
“It’s been an interesting few years. I’m happy to be back, whether it be for a week or the rest of the year. I’m going to enjoy it, and it’s been a lot of fun.”
Gibbons said it was very hard to make it to the big leagues this time around. He made the major leagues the first time by being selected as a Rule 5 draft pick by the Orioles in 2000.
“It seemed like it was harder to make it to the big leagues the second time, so it was a little more gratifying,” Gibbons said. “The first time I was running around like a chicken with my head cut off…I didn’t know where I was. But this time around, being from L.A. and playing in front of my family, it was pretty cool, and it was an experience I won’t forget.”
Gibbons made his debut Sunday at home against the Nationals, a game in which he came in to pinch-hit for the newly acquired Ted Lilly. Gibbons made the most of his first opportunity in the big leagues in almost three years by slapping a RBI-single off longtime pitcher Miguel Batista, bringing in Ronnie Belliard.
Gibbons said he was anxious a little bit, but once he stepped in the batter’s box, he was relaxed and in his comfort zone.
“It was more of being on deck, taking it all in again. I had some butterflies going in the stomach, but when I got to the plate , it was just playing baseball anywhere and you try and do your job and try and drive the run in.”
Gibbons had had shots over the years for minor league jobs, but that was the extent of his MLB career. The Mitchell Report had turned out to be a blacklisted list of names for the MLB, and with Gibbons on that list and no teams calling for his services, he initially retired early last year.
“I was home for 5 months. When no one wants you, I guess you have to call your retirement. I just walked away from the game and spent time with my family, which was great.”
But the game kept pulling on Gibbons to get back out there and keep trying to get back at it, especially when he was watching last year’s playoffs.
“You get bored when you retire. It wasn’t until playoff time last year that I still felt that fire in me, and I felt like I had to give it one more shot.”
Gibbons was invited to spring training for the Dodgers this year after doing the same last year for the Marlins. Only this time, Gibbons wasn’t cut by the ball club, and he felt like having a lot of people close to him supporting his efforts, and that desire, helped him impress Joe Torre enough to get a minor league deal.
“I was just trying to prove it to myself, and I had my family’s support, and my friend’s support, and just proving to myself that I could make it back and that I have still some ability to play this game. The Dodgers fortunately enough and gratefully enough gave me an opportunity in spring training just to win a minor league job, and I was happy with that.”
Gibbons, who played his college ball at Cal State University, now gets to be close to home with his three kids.
“Its great. Im able to live in my house in California and to drive to the stadium. That’s a dream come true right now, especially with the three little kids. The travel’s been really tough. It’s almost surreal growing up a Dodger fan, and being a Dodger today. I’m taking it all in and really enjoying it.”
Gibbons has actually started two games this week instead of outfielder Matt Kemp, but likely when Manny Ramirez, Rafael Furcal, Jeff Weaver, and Russell Martin return from the disabled list, Gibbons will likely be a casualty of some roster moves.
Gibbons said he doesn’t care how long this thing goes; he is just happy with having this time in the big leagues.
“Things went well down there this year, and whether it’s for next week or the rest of the year, it’s a bonus for me.”
But for as long as he’s here, Gibbons said he wants to help this team as much as he can to get back into the playoff hunt in the NL West and usurp the Padres atop the division.
We’ve got to play well the remainder of the season the last month and a half. With the Padres, I dont think anybody expected this. Hopefully we can make up ground pretty quickly.”
“I was the last piece we needed to add. We’re perfect now,” Gibbons laughed. But still, I think we’ve got a very good team here. We have some really good pitching. We’ve had some guys banged up…Furcal and Manny would help this lineup a lot. We just need to play well as a team, drive out runs when they’re out there, and our pitching is always going to keep us in the game. If we can hit, I think we’ll be in every game.”
And who knows, Gibbons may be exposed to waivers in order to attempt to return to the minor leagues, and who knows…maybe a return to the Orioles is possible? Gibbons said he is still a fan of the Orioles franchise that gave him his start, and he wishes them the best.
And so far, the team has been playing their best under Buck Showalter.
“It really depends on what you have in the big leagues…what kind of team you have. But whatever Buck is doing, it’s working. I talked to Brian Roberts yesterday, and they’re buying into it so far. And they’re having fun and that’s the key to everything, having fun and being loose. And when young guys are loose, they play better. I’m still an Oriole fan. I root for them to do well, and that city is dying for a winner there, and I really hope that this is a start of a turnaround for them.”
Tune into WNST and WNST.net as we continue to track Jay Gibbons in his return to the majors. WNST-We Never Stop Talking Baltimore Sports!