Gaining the competitive edge

BY JOEL HOARD: OH YEAH?

Published March 17, 2005

I’ve always had nothing but the highest of expectations for my three children. Usually they take care of business at school and around the house without much coaxing, but every now and then, they need a proverbial kick in the pants. Take for example my oldest son, Brandt, who’s now 11. When Brandt was six, I signed him up for tee ball in the local little league. He had some trouble catching on, and he was much smaller than the other kids on his team. A few games into the season, he told me that he wanted to quit. I told him what I always tell my kids when they want to quit something prematurely: “You made a commitment, and you’re sticking to it.” Brandt said he would much rather take an art class or join the kids’ theater troupe, but I wasn’t letting him off that easy.

Jess Cox

He agreed to stick with it, and I agreed to help him overcome his lack of size and turn him into a player to be reckoned with. A solid year of coaching, and Brandt had the basics down, but he just couldn’t seem to grow. At age seven, he stood just shy of 3-foot-10 and weighed only 74 pounds. I knew something had to be done if Brandt was to turn into the baseball phenom he was destined to become.

First I took Brandt to Dr. Rooney, who’s been treating our family since we moved to the Phoenix area 10 years ago. Dr. Rooney said that Brandt was a normal, healthy child and that I shouldn’t be concerned. Rooney’s always seemed like a trustworthy doctor, but I had to question his motives on this one, considering his grandson David played for one of Brandt’s fiercest rivals in the little league.

At that point, it was time to take matters into my own hands. I studied the top baseball players of the past decade: Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, and I asked myself what set them apart from the rest of the pack. A good work ethic and natural ability for sure, but there was something else I couldn’t quite lay my finger on. Then one night as I watched a “20/20” investigative report, the answer struck me: steroids. Those wonderful gifts of science had made ordinary men into baseball behemoths, and I was hoping they would do the same for Brandt. When it comes to fulfilling your child’s dreams, be they going to college to become a doctor or lawyer, owning a Fortune 500 company or, in Brandt’s case, becoming the best baseball player the game has ever seen, you should be willing to do anything to help him along the way.

I made the trip down to Mexico by myself. It wasn’t difficult to find what I was looking for. Pharmacies with signs bearing phrases such as “American Drugs! CHEAP!!!” and “Cheap Pills!!! No Perscription (sic) Needed!” were around every corner. The pharmacists were more than willing to help me with Brandt’s plight, and I was soon on my way home with a one-year supply of injectable steroids and human growth hormone.

At first, Brandt was wary about his weekly shots. Getting 500 cc of steroid serum and HGH injected into your hip can’t be all that comfortable. Occasionally he would cry and ask me why I kept giving him the shots, but I would gently remind him that it was a small price to pay to reach his goals. Besides, I reminded him, Barry Bonds never cried when his father injected him.

On top of that, I was confident that Brandt would change his tune once he saw the results he could get. And boy did he ever get results. With his weekly injections, a strict diet and a rigorous workout regimen, within six months Brandt grew more than a foot and put on 75 pounds of pure muscle. By age nine he stood 5-foot-3. At 10, he crossed the 6-foot mark. And now, at 11, he’s 6-foot-4 and is a hulking 250 pounds.

Some of Brandt’s teachers have expressed concerns over changes in his attitude and his recent aggressive behavior, but they don’t concern me. There’s no amount of aggression that a good session in the weight room or batting cage can’t handle.

As for Brandt’s prowess on the diamond, well, his league-leading 46 home runs and 116 RBI (all in the span of 35 games!) speak for themselves.

Let this be a lesson to all the other parents and children out there struggling to attain their dreams: In the end, it all comes down to hard work and careful planning. Keep reaching for those stars, and don’t let anyone or anything stand in your way.

 

Hoard can be reached at j.ho@umich.edu.