ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
Youth baseball continues through the winter months in Arizona. And Mark Moran of member station KJZZ spoke with some of those players about the Mitchell report.
MARK MORAN: When George Mitchell was releasing the findings of his report yesterday, these kids were in school, hitting the books.
Mr. GEORGE MITCHELL (Former U.S. Senator): Each of the 30 clubs…
MORAN: But all that these boys were really thinking about was hitting the diamond to play some baseball. The East Valley Bulldogs from the Phoenix suburb of Mesa are gearing up for a series of competitive wintertime tournaments, and they practice for hours every week to hone their skills.
And you guys want to play baseball, right?
Unidentified Group: Yes, sir.
MORAN: Why is that?
Mr. COLTON CATTRELL(ph) (East Valley Bulldogs): Because I love playing with my team. And I just love - the sport of baseball. I just like playing it for fun and just because I love it.
MORAN: 12-year-old Colton Cattrell thinks that's where many of the Major Leaguers implicated in this report may have gotten off track and given in to the lure of performance-enhancing drugs.
Mr. CATTRELL: I think they just do it because maybe they forgot that they just play baseball because they love it and they started playing it for the money.
MORAN: There were some big names in the report, people who do make lots of money based on their performance: Roger Clemens, a seven-time Cy Young Award winner; Andy Pettitte with four World Series rings and; Miguel Tejada, a world-class shortstop.
But these boys seem to have more regard for fairness, rules and their health than they do for the now-tainted superstars they've looked up to and admired.
Tyler Sharplis(ph) summed up in a way well beyond his 12 years.
Mr. TYLER SHARPLIS (East Valley Bulldogs): I feel like it's kind of like an insult to the game because it's like cheating. It's not really fair. I think of them as like cheaters.
MORAN: The rest of the Bulldogs, including Colton Cattrell, see the issue in no uncertain terms.
Mr. CATTRELL: I think that how all these people are breaking these records with their steroids, it - maybe it's not really breaking a record unless if you're doing it yourself. It's pretty much like having somebody else break a record for you.
MORAN: Bulldogs coach David Sepulveda(ph) says it's easy to tell the kids to stay away from drugs. But he believes the real trick is for coaches to teach kids when they're young, not to put professional athletes on a pedestal in the first place.
Mr. DAVID SEPULVEDA (Coach, East Valley Bulldogs): I have favorite athletes. But to be honest with you, I never looked at them as role models. And you know, that's my honest opinion. I think you learn that from your parents. You got to tell the kids, I mean, that's why we emphasize things like hustle and proper fundamentals and things like that. And you know, in the end, people that are taking a shortcut to achieve, you know, success, it usually catches up with them.
MORAN: Coaches and parents say it's one thing for 12-year-old boys to get the message that using performance-enhancing drugs is cheating. But players who want to pursue the game at a higher level say, in high school or college, will be forced to make choices they aren't even able to comprehend yet. But as well as he can, 12-year-old Cole Disbin(ph) looks into the future and thinks he'll find other ways to get an edge if he's ever offered performance-enhancing drugs.
Mr. COLE DISBIN (East Valley Bulldogs): If they offer you steroids, I wouldn't take them. But if they offer you, like, batting lessons or something, I'll take that or something else besides steroids. I'm not taking, you know, any kind of a drug, and I don't do drugs.
MORAN: For now, at least, the black cloud that has settled over Major League Baseball has not stretched to the youth diamonds of Mesa, nor has it dampened the enthusiasm of these boys.
For NPR News, I'm Mark Moran in Phoenix.
SIEGEL: And you can explore some of the allegations against the Major League Baseball players at npr.org.
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