Peter Angelos says he never wants to attend another memorial service like the one he went to yesterday. And he hopes the Major League Baseball Players’ Association is listening.
Following a service for Steve Bechler, the Orioles pitcher who died Monday morning after complications from heatstroke linked to ephedra use, Angelos addressed the media and called on the union to join commissioner Bud Selig in his quest to ban the drug.
“We need to follow the leadership of Commissioner Selig,” Angelos said after the memorial service, which was held at the team’s spring training clubhouse and attended by the player’s family, friends and teammates and members of the Orioles staff. “He has not gotten the cooperation (from the players’ association) that he is entitled to.
“Ownership is willing to have all of these over-the-counter drugs banned. But we’re having difficulty getting consensus from the union.”
Angelos said baseball is lobbying Congress to include supplements such as ephedra among prohibited substances that require prescription from a doctor.
Although Angelos acknowledges that significant progress was made regarding over-the-counter drugs during collective bargaining last season, he cites union leadership, and not the players, as the primary reason more progress has not been made.
“I believe that the majority of the players are supportive of this,” Angelos said. “They rejected our proposal to ban these supplements last year. This situation should not be allowed to continue. There are grave and serious consequences. The Bechler situation indicates that it’s long overdue.”
At the Mets spring training camp in Port St. Lucie, pitcher John Bale, Bechler’s friend and former teammate in the Orioles organization, agreed that baseball needs a policy on ephedra.
“I think they should ban it now,” said Bale, who says he took ephedra-based products on occasion as a pick-me-up, but pledges he will never use the supplement again. “I mean, we’re all guilty at some time or another of taking it. With situations like this, it definitely scares you away from it. I’m not going to touch the stuff again.”
Angelos blames the widespread use of supplements on players who believe that consuming these substances enhances performance, thus leading to better statistics and more money through free-agent contracts and lucrative endorsement deals.
“(Selig) has been pushing for a more informative, educational program about these drugs,” Angelos said. “The commissioner wants these drugs to be prohibited and for clubs to have the authority to (suspend) players who take them.”
Angelos’ comments followed the memorial service for Bechler, which was also attended by Bechler’s mother and father, Pat and Ernie Bechler.
Flowers brightened a room darkened by the tragedy of the player’s death Monday, after he collapsed the previous day during a workout. Two pictures of the 23-year-old pitcher graced a table, placed against a wall in the clubhouse.
“Steve died for the game he loved and you have to respect that,” pitcher Matt Riley said. “We have to bring everybody together.”
But Angelos is not optimistic about avoiding future tragedies like the one that happened to his team this week.
“There is no indication that the banning of these substances is in the foreseeable future,” he said.