NEWARK - In late September 2004, Reds reliever Joe Valentine was in his second inning at the Great American Ball Park, protecting a two-run lead. With one out, the Cubs' Sammy Sosa hit a long fly to left.
"I gave up [No.] 572 to him," the 29-year-old righthander said. "It was a [first-pitch] fastball right down the middle. Here it is, hit it. He probably hit one of the farthest I've ever given up."
Sosa hit 609 homers, sixth-best all time.
Valentine, a 1997 graduate of Deer Park High School, is in his third season with the Ducks, four seasons removed from the majors. Sosa, according to a New York Times report last week, used a performance-enhancing drug in 2003. Valentine said before last night's Atlantic League All-Star Game that the report was no surprise.
"At the time . . . you kind of knew," he said. "There's a structure to a human body that you can say, 'All right, he's been blessed,' or 'he's been helped.' Knowing a guy or seeing him early in his career, being a stringy guy to being a country of a man, it's a big difference."
Valentine pitched one more season in the majors, compiling a 2-4 record and a 6.70 ERA in 452/3 innings in three years with the Reds.
But in the Atlantic League, where nearly everyone is looking to rejuvenate a career, the opinion on performance enhancers isn't unanimous. Chris Hoiles, a manager in the All-Star Game, ended his 10-year big- league career in 1998, the year of the Sosa- Mark McGwire home run chase, and said he "didn't know anybody who was doing them" when he was playing.
"The guys are bigger and better now. It's just a thing where they say 'Oh, he's on steroids, it's easy,' " Hoiles said. "Look at a guy like Sosa, I don't know that he's on steroids or not."
Valentine said the decision not to use steroids rests with his family. "Would I be able to look my daughter in the face if I ever did them and got caught, and say 'Daddy broke the rules'?'' he said. "I wouldn't be able to."
That doesn't mean Valentine doesn't consider what might have been if he had used.
"It's always a thought in a guy that never did it or a guy that thought about doing it," he said. "Because you're thinking, well, what if I did do it, would I be there? What if nobody did it, would I be there?"
Notes & quotes: Newark closer Armando Benitez allowed four runs in the top of the ninth as the Liberty Division beat the Freedom Division, 7-5. The Ducks' Bill Simas got the win.