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Little Leaguers Talk About Bonds and Steroids

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Little Leaguers Talk About Bonds and Steroids

Sports

Little Leaguers Talk About Bonds and Steroids

Little Leaguers Talk About Bonds and Steroids

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San Francisco Giants slugger Barry Bonds recently eclipsed Babe Ruth's home run record, but his achievement is overshadowed by allegations Bonds has taken performance-enhancing drugs. Mark Moran of member station KJZZ visited a Little League team in Phoenix to see what coaches and kids think about Bonds and the steroid allegations.

ALEX CHADWICK, host:

This is DAY TO DAY from NPR News. I'm Alex Chadwick.

MADELEINE BRAND, host:

And I'm Madeleine Brand. Baseball slugger Barry Bonds has passed Babe Ruth with 715 home runs. He is now sizing up home run king Hank Aaron's record of 755 home runs. But allegations of steroid use are marring Bonds' achievement. People are debating that in grandstands and dugouts around the country. Mark Moran of member station of KJZZ in Phoenix spoke with Little Leaguers and their coaches about Bonds' chase for baseball's best-known record.

Unidentified Man: Who are we?

Unidentified Children: Great!

Unidentified Man: Who are we?

Unidentified Children: Great!

Unidentified Man: Who are we?

Unidentified Children: Great!

Unidentified Man: Hands on three.

GROUP: One, two, three, Reds!

MARK MORAN reporting:

It's a hot spring evening here, and the Reds and White Sox are locked in battle for the Red Mountain League Championship on a dusty Junior High sandlot in Mesa, a Phoenix suburb.

(Soundbite of cheering)

Mr. MORAN: Following a one run extra inning victory by the White Sox, the conversation turned to the Barry Bonds home run watch, and performance-enhancing drugs. These nine and ten-year-olds are well aware of the allegations against Bonds and the drugs some people say he took.

Mr. LORENZO SANCHEZ (Reds Little Leaguer): Dude, he's doing steroids. Steroids.

Mr. MORAN: Everybody knows what that is?

GROUP: Yeah.

Mr. MORAN: Good or bad?

GROUP: Bad.

Mr. MORAN: That's Lorenzo Sanchez and the rest of the Reds who all agree that drugs are bad for the body. But despite the strong allegations against Bonds that he's used steroids, his skills are still admired by these young ball players.

Mr. JACOB OWENS (Little Leaguer): He rocks.

GROUP: He rocks.

Mr. OWENS: Outstanding player.

Mr. MORAN: Why?

Mr. OWENS: Because he's a great hitter. I think he has good sportsmanship, and he's a good player.

Mr. MORAN: That's nine-year-old Jacob Owens. He thinks Bonds is getting a bad rap from the media and from the many fans who boo his every move.

Mr. OWENS: I think they don't like him because he's a great hitter. He's so strong that he can hit all the balls the guys pitch.

Mr. MORAN: The discussion of steroids and other performance-enhancers is now commonplace around Little League diamonds in the Phoenix area. The Bonds story, whether he used drugs or not, these coaches say, has provided them with one of those teachable moments. As did Bonds' 715 homer.

Mr. PAUL BUJOIS(ph) (Little League coach): And you've got millions of kids across the country who watched that happen. Now, as parents and as society, we're going to pay for that for the next 20 years.

Mr. MORAN: Coach Paul Bujois thinks that because of the success of Bonds and others who've allegedly used steroids, performance-enhancing drugs will become more prevalent, especially among teenage athletes.

Mr. BUJOIS: Unfortunately, what kids are seeing are all the benefits and the positives associated with steroids. They're seeing him break records. They're seeing a stadium full of 50,000 people stand on their feet and cheer. And we have to talk about how it's wrong.

Mr. MORAN: So, if Barry Bonds has taken steroids during the home run chase, should his record stand? Ten-year-old Mack Shackleford(ph).

Mr. MACK SHACKLEFORD (Little Leaguer): No, because then he's just cheating. He's taking a different path and taking short cuts.

Mr. MORAN: And Jacob Owens.

Mr. OWENS:No drug, nothing can help you get better, I don't think. I think it's just hard work and determination to play the game and be good at it.

Mr. MORAN: Coaches like Bujois say these Little Leaguers will need determination on two levels: to work hard at the game, and to avoid temptations that players from a previous generation didn't face. For NPR News, I'm Mark Moran in Phoenix.

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