Epic Carnival | Where Sports and Pop Culture Collide: PERFORMANCE ENHANCERS AND ME


by Jack Cobra, Cobra Brigade

A little bit of a backstory is needed here, so please bear with me for a few moments....I grew up loving baseball. Not only watching it, but playing it. I would spend countless hours throwing a tennis ball against a wall to perfect my ground ball fielding skills in my quest to become the next Ryne Sandberg. I would spend 4-6 hours a day during the Summer playing 'fastpitch' with one of my friends in an effort to find the perfect line drive swing. Most kids would prefer to sit inside and play video games...I enjoyed playing baseball and I could see that I was getting better nearly every day.

By the time I was 11, I was pretty good. Obviously, because I was 11 I wasn't physically large enough to pound home run after home run with kids in high school, but I was good enough to be rated as having High School Varsity skills...at 11. At 14, I was flying to the Bahamas to play in a Caribbean Tournament with a Team USA filled with college players/college. I had two uncle's who were professional baseball players and I was supposed to be the next one. By the time I was 15....I lost the 'drive' to get better. Little did I know then that it was actually the precursor to my later use of performance enhancing supplements. (I'm stealing these pictures from Google.)

I pretty much 'floated' through my high school baseball career. I wasn't a big time prospect, I only had a few schools looking at me and to be honest with you....I didn't like playing. There were a lot of reasons for that, but we don't need to go into them here.....I had become content with being an average baseball player and that's pretty much what I was at that point.

Then, the Summer before my freshman year in college I decided that I wanted to prove to myself that I could be a good baseball player again. I'm not really sure why I came to this decision. Maybe I woke up one morning and felt good, I'm not sure. I was headed to a Division II school that allowed walk-on players and after talking to the coach in the Summer I was able to try-out for the team in the Fall.

The thing is...I knew I wasn't good enough to play at that level. At least, not at that point. So, I started working out really hard. When I graduated high school I was 160 pounds of whatever the opposite of muscle is (besides fat, since I'm 6'). I started hearing about creatine at the time, so after doing some research on it, I started using it. I knew that in order to make the baseball team I would have to workout extremely hard all Summer long. By using creatine it helped me do that because the amount of time it took my body to 'rebound' from one workout to another was minimal. I was working 8 hours a day as a summer helper at a construction site, going to the gym for a 90 minute workout and then I was playing on a traveling baseball team at night that played 60 games that Summer. On top of that, I was doing speed/running workouts. My body never felt better. By the end of the Summer I was up to 175 pounds and bench pressing 225 lbs during my sets (not my max). I was playing really well...hitting the ball hard, running 4.2's from home to first, getting to ground balls I hadn't reached before and feeling like I was at the top of my game. I had a new body, new confidence and it felt amazing.

Needless to say, I scorched through the try-out and made the team. I felt that creatine had played a huge role in that....and I would turn to it again later for help. I ended up having to quit (or get released) from the team because of the time constraints it put on my classes (seriously), but I was content with knowing I had made the team. At that point, I figured I was done with baseball.

Fast forward to two years later and I'm getting ready to not only transfer to a new school, but also....play baseball again. I hadn't picked up a bat/glove/ball in about two years but I had talked the coach into giving me a 'look-see' at an upcoming intrasquad scrimmage they were having at my new school. I went on a month long workout binge, only this time....there was a new product on the market, Androstenedione. So, I'm begin trying to work through two years worth of rust by using Adro and Creatine. The results were phenomenal. I was in decent shape for the intrasquad game and made the team. By the time the Spring rolled around....I was up to 195 pounds and running 4.1's from home to first. Obviously, as a baseball player I'm not in the weight room going through the same workouts as football players. My workouts consisted of sustained exercises to build up longer muscles with more endurance. Creatine and Andro allowed me to do that with flying colors. I was putting in nearly three hours a night when you factored in the time I was using to hit off a tee and feeling very little fatigue.

I struggled to produce when the season rolled around...that's what happens when you haven't played for two years. Still, I stayed on my cycles and kept working out. Eventually things turned around so that I was stealing bases, making diving plays, hitting triples, etc..I ended up hitting in the .330's that season batting lead-off and playing shortstop. I was pretty content with those results and I never really felt tired the entire season long. Obviously, I struggled at times but that was more because of the rust involved from not playing. My body was never tired.

I wanted to know how good I was...clean. I had to know just how much of a difference this 'stuff' was making. So, as I headed into my final season of playing college ball I threw away all the 'stuff' I had. I was working in the fitness center during the week, opening up the place at 6am; so I was able to put in a two-hour workout before anyone had really been on campus. I was still lifting the same amount of weight, but I could feel my body getting more tired than before. Still, I grinded it out and went into my final season at 190 lbs (5 lbs less than the season before).

I'm notoriously a slow starter, but after my annual 0-13 start to the season, I caught fire. I was hitting triples, stealing bases...you get the point. But my body was getting tired, my hamstrings hurt, my shoulder felt worn, my elbow ached. My body did not feel good. I still was getting good results on the field (hitting .407) but my body felt horrible. So, you guessed it, I went back on the 'stuff'. I started to feel better initially and actually started to 'up my doses'. At this point I was not only playing well, but I was feeling better than ever.

I'm not going to go into detail as to how the rest of that season played out statistically, but the point is....I used Creatine (banned in NCAA, NFL and IOC) and Andro (banned in MLB, NCAA, NFL and IOC) to make myself a better baseball player, and in some ways, it worked. These 'supplements' that the players use don't allow them to hit 95+mph fastballs when they couldn't before. It allows them to play at their highest level for a longer period of time though, so there is not as much of a drop off. It allows them to workout longer during the off-season so that their bodies can make it through a grueling season. It gives them the confidence and, in some ways, the mentality that they are at the top of their game.

Personally, if I had to do it all over again....I would have tried to do it without Creatine and Andro. I wasn't trying to make it to the big leagues, I was just trying to prove to myself that I was, in fact, a good ballplayer. I think, or I like to think, I could have made it without the help.

(Originally published 12/14)

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