Thursday, July 23, 2009

Mark Buehrle, Jim Parque: A White Sox Day

White Sox pitcher Mark Buerhle pitched a perfect game this afternoon, retiring all 27 consecutive batters from the Tampa Bay Whatevers. Great news, and the Sox are just one-half game behind the Tigers for the lead in the AL Central.

It is nice to see the news of the perfect game splashed all over the major media (well, most of them; didn't see it on the home page of the Washington Post). Then again, if a pitcher from the Yankees or Red Sox had done this, we'd be suffering through Michael Jackson-level of media overkill.

Less known but still worth noting here is another White Sox pitcher-related story today. Former Sox pitcher Jim Parque wrote an article for the Chicago Sun-Times explaining how and why he used human growth hormone years ago, in an attempt to resurrect a career following an injury (and after leaving the White Sox).

He explains feeling worried about supporting his family, worrying that he didn't have the skills or experience to work outside baseball, and focusing desperately on making his game better. (He only used the HGH for a short time before abandoning it.

He writes:

I want everyone to know that I fully understood what I was doing, the ramifications of the unethical decisions I made and how it potentially could cast a dark shadow over my career. For that, I truly feel sorry. Although I did not truly know if the drug I took was, in fact, HGH (although I am confident it was because of the way my body felt after the injections and my Internet research), I still chose to inject it, and I am fully responsible for my actions.

I have to admit finding his article very interesting, partly because it reads like a pretty personal and honest explanation of his thought processes, and because it puts a human face on the controversy. (He does say that the HGH he took was not illegal at the time that he ordered it.) I'm no fan of drugs, but I thought he did a good job of explaining himself.

That also gives me pleasure because when Parque was with the Sox, he was my favorite player. I remember going to Sox games early, sitting out in the cheap seats, and watching him warm up, and I liked the intensity he brought to it. He seemed smart and focused, and I guess I like that more in an athlete than dumb and driven.

So it's a weird day for us White Sox fans today. Both news stories, I think, show why baseball is a game that encompasses so much more of its fans lives than just what they see on the field. It's a game of people doing stupid stuff and great stuff and making you think.

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