Taylor Hooton Foundation > Hoot’s Corner > General > Alex Rodriguez's help now rings hollow
November 19, 2014
Alex Rodriguez's help now rings hollow
Don Hooton, whose son committed suicide after taking performance-enhancing drugs, addresses group at the Yogi Berra Museum.
Don Hooton, whose son committed suicide after taking performance-enhancing drugs, addresses group at the Yogi Berra Museum.
LITTLE FALLS — Alex Rodriguez used to be the closer, surprising an auditorium full of high school or middle school students at the conclusion of Don Hooton’s sermon against steroids. “They’d go crazy,” Hooton said. “But he had an effective message.” That anti-steroid message seems like public lip service now, a penance A-Rod paid for his admission of using performance-enhancing drugs as a Texas Ranger. “According to the latest [report], apparently he was doing it right when he was doing our programs,” Hooton said. The Biogenesis case and MLB’s suspension of Rodriguez for all of 2014 ended A-Rod’s association with the Taylor Hooton Foundation, named for Don Hooton’s son – a high school athlete and steroid user who committed suicide 11 years ago at age 17. Earlier this month, the Miami Herald reported that Rodriguez told federal agents in January of his PED use via Biogenesis in exchange for immunity from prosecution. But such an apparent boldfaced betrayal by a bold-named athlete hasn’t left Hooton bitter. In 2009, when A-Rod emerged from a public PED apology and teamed with the foundation, Hooton heard opinions of how he was being used by the tainted Yankees slugger for positive public relations. “My response was, ‘Absolutely he’s using us. We’re using him, too,’ ” Hooton said. “Because he got us into an audience we could never [reach].” No surprise guests emerged Tuesday at the Yogi Berra Museum and Learning Center, where an audience of high school students, athletic directors, coaches and athletic trainers listened attentively to Hooton’s hourlong speech. At one point, Hooton hammered home the modern illusion of muscle by contrasting a G.I. Joe doll from 1970 to today’s version – with biceps swollen abnormally on the newer one. And the opposite gender was not ignored. Displaying a photo of a muscular, recent Ms. Olympia candidate, Hooton said: “Bodies like that are not achievable without illegal drugs.” Soon, the Yankees will find out what — if anything – A-Rod can achieve after playing just 44 games since 2013 due to his suspension and a second hip surgery. During his 2009 steroid apology, A-Rod cited immaturity and his record-setting Rangers contract as reasons for his PED use from 2001-03. Later, Rodriguez would be in the same room as Hooton described the potential dangers of steroids to teenagers – from severe acne to low sperm counts to kidney failure to early stroke and heart attack risks. And the mental depression that Hooton believes triggered his son’s suicide. “Was he not listening? Because one of the genuine concerns here is about Alex … at a health level,” said Hooton, a first cousin of former Dodgers pitcher Burt Hooton. Don Hooton sees a player approaching age 40 not with three years and $61 million remaining on his contract, but with a litany of physical questions. “It’s not if it’s going to get him, it’s a matter of when,” Hooton said. “Let’s keep our eyes out for ligament pulls, tendon tears. He’s in the right [age] zone that, if he’s doing [PEDs] as long as he’s alleged to have been doing it, then he’s prime for some [heart] problems.” During a brief question-and-answer period Tuesday, Rodriguez’s name never came up. But Hooton did mention Brett Gardner, Max Scherzer and David DeJesus, who are among the 21 big-leaguers on his advisory board. Through the work of former Yankees media relations chief Rick Cerrone, Hooton hopes to secure current members from the remaining 30 clubs. “These guys seem to be more humbled and glad to be joining with this cause than we are to have them,” said Hooton, who has heard a universal response from angered players to “get this [garbage] out of baseball and be responsible to the kids.” A-Rod might not have practiced what he preached, but Hooton remains grateful for his accompanying spotlight. “From that standpoint, I don’t regret it,” Hooton said. “But in hindsight, he was disingenuous.” In the end, “it was an easy call” to return A-Rod’s last donation. Hooton hasn’t spoken to Rodriguez since the Biogenesis scandal broke and Hooton won’t be the first to dial the phone. However, “I’d just love to sit man to man and hear his version of what happened.” Any remote possibility of a reunion would hinge on what A-Rod says next. “It’s not about money,” Hooton said of Rodriguez’s past generous donations. “It’s about credibility and sending the right message to children.” http://www.northjersey.com/sports/baseball/a-rod-s-help-now-rings-hollow-1.1136461?page=all