Colorado Rockies reliever Matt Herges says he's actually glad he was implicated in the Mitchell Report on drugs in baseball because it led him to do some soul-searching and clear his conscience over his "dirty little secret."
"I didn't used to be this way," the 37-year-old pitcher told The Associated Press in an interview from his home in Scottsdale, Ariz., on Wednesday.
Matt Herges admitted Wednesday that he used human growth hormone.
(Jack Dempsey/Associated Press)
"But I'm at the point where I know what I did was wrong, 100 per cent, no excuses, no justification, no rationalization. I screwed up and I crossed the line.
"I feel like I've been shown mercy in all of this. If I'm not standing there naked in front of the world with my big secret, I'd still be holding onto it, hiding it.
"It would still be eating at me. It's not fun by any stretch holding onto something like that, so secretive, so dirty.
"I'm grateful it's out there. I'm freed a little bit, a lot actually."
Rockies first base coach Glenallen Hill, who was also implicated in the Mitchell Report, and Herges, broke their silence on the matter Wednesday by issuing written apologies for using performance-enhancing drugs.
They said they would work to make sure impressionable youngsters don't make the same mistakes.
They issued their statements on the same day Roger Clemens and his former personal trainer, Brian McNamee, testified before Congress about drug use in baseball.
"It was on in the background while I was working out," Herges said. "It's not a place I wanted to be, let's put it that way."
Although Herges declined Mitchell's invitation to respond to allegations he used HGH, Hill, who played for seven teams over his 13-year major-league career that ended in 2001, was required to meet with Mitchell because he's a club employee.
After his name surfaced in the investigation as having purchased performance enhancers in 2000 or 2001, while with the Anaheim Angels, Hill told Mitchell he did, indeed, buy anabolic steroids, but insisted he didn't use them.
On Wednesday, he said he did use them.
"My brief use of performance-enhancing substances embarrassed me, both personally and professionally," Hill said. "And it was something that I did not want to discuss with anyone.
"After much thought and reflection, I felt that I owed it to God, my family and the Rockies' organization to be completely forthcoming and truthful. I would like to extend my deepest apologies to the Rockies organization, to my family and friends, and to baseball fans across the country."
Herges purchased HGH
Herges resurrected his career in Colorado last year, going 5-1 with a 2.96 earned-run average in 35 relief appearances to help the Rockies win their first National League pennant.
He was rewarded with a one-year, $2.5-million US contract two weeks before the Mitchell Report was released in December.
That report culminated a 20-month investigation by former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell, hired by commissioner Bud Selig to examine the game's steroids era.
In the report, former Mets clubhouse attendant Kirk Radomski said Herges bought human growth hormone on two or three occasions in 2004-05, when Herges was with the San Francisco Giants and Arizona Diamondbacks.
"I just tried to get to the bottom of why I did it," Herges said. "Deep down, in my core, I'm not as good as I'd like to be.
"I'm flawed big-time. And I think the incredible amount of insecurity I have contributed to me, basically, not selling my soul, but crossing that line."
Herges said there was no connection between his apology and Clemens' testimony on Capitol Hill.
"It was just the right time," he said. "I've done my soul-searching and I've realized why I did it, and I didn't want it to be a circus when I got down there to spring training, either."
The Rockies' pitchers and catchers report to spring training in Tucson on Friday.
Herges said he knows he's going to pay the price in the public's eye but has been surprised by the forgiveness shown him by those close to him.
"You talk about leading a double life," Herges said. "My wife Jane didn't know, my family didn't know, my mom and dad, who are so proud of me and what I've done, they didn't know.
"You can imagine the phone calls, sitting in front of my wife. I tried to hold onto a secret, a dirty little secret. That's not how you really want to live."
Herges said that when the Mitchell Report came out, "I slept better than I'd slept in months," because he knew he would have to confront the reasons he delved into drugs to cheat.
The funny thing is, Herges added, was that he didn't notice that much of a difference on HGH, which he said he only used in the off-season.
"It wasn't a miracle drug," Herges said. "It didn't make me throw harder.
"The one thing I guess is I woke up not as achy. But in terms of baseball, it didn't do much for me.
"I do know this: I wasn't a better pitcher. That's what's most embarrassing about this."