Zez says: Mighty Jerry has struck out
If you don't see me in spring training, hitting baseballs over the fence and signing autographs for adoring fans, it will be because I was recently on steroids, which unfortunately did nothing to help me hit baseballs over the fence and explains why nobody wants my autograph.
My dream of making it to the big leagues began when a sore throat put me on the disabled list. So I went to Stat-Health, a walk-in clinic in Port Jefferson Station, N.Y., and sat down with enough people to fill the bleachers at a spring training game. All that was missing was a guy selling beer, which would have helped my throat considerably.
Instead, I saw the next best person, Dr. Richard Goldstein, who looked at my throat and said, "It's really inflamed. I am going to give you a strep test."
"Strip?" I asked, indicating that my ears were affected, too. "You mean I have to take my clothes off?"
"No," said Dr. Goldstein. "I am going to take a culture."
"The only culture I have comes from yogurt," I informed him, adding that my throat was so sore that I almost couldn't talk, gratifying my family and friends.
"You don't have strep," Dr. Goldstein said when the test results came back a few minutes later.
"I guess it's true that when it comes to being sick, men are babies," I said.
"Yes, we are," Dr. Goldstein acknowledged. "But don't worry, I won't tell anyone. It's part of our doctor-patient confidentiality. Still, I want to get rid of the inflammation in your throat, so I am going to prescribe steroids."
"There goes my baseball career," I told Dr. Goldstein, who also prescribed antibiotics, which I had to take after I finished the steroids.
I was on steroids for six days. I didn't feel any stronger, maybe because my idea of weight lifting is doing 12-ounce curls, but I wondered if the steroids could help me hit a baseball, something I hadn't done with any regularity since Little League. And even then, half a century ago, I was terrible.
To find out, I went to Matt Guiliano's Play Like a Pro, an indoor hitting and pitching facility in Hauppauge, N.Y.
One of the staffers, Chris Ingram, 20, who has played college ball as a pitcher and an outfielder at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, N.Y., and hopes to make it to the big leagues, led me to a batting cage.
"I don't think the steroids you're taking are the same ones that guys like Alex Rodriguez have used," said Ingram, who added that he has never taken them and never would.
"Cheaters shouldn't prosper, which is why I don't want to be like A-Rod," I said, noting that I would be known as J-Zez. "But I wouldn't mind having his bank account."
After I picked out a bat and put on a helmet, Ingram asked, "Do you want me to set the pitching machine on fast, medium or slow?"
"What's slow?" I replied.
"Forty-five miles per hour," said Ingram, pointing out that the speed is about half of what the average major-league pitcher throws.
"Let's go slow," I said, stepping up to the plate and waiting for the first pitch, which whizzed past me before I was even halfway through my swing.
Except for a couple of foul balls, I hit only one of 16 pitches. And it wouldn't have come close to being a home run.
"Maybe a grounder to short," Ingram said.
For the next batch of pitches, I tried batting from the left side. I had a more natural swing, Ingram said, but it didn't help because I whiffed on all but one, which I fouled off.
"The steroids didn't work," I said afterward.
"How's your throat?" Ingram asked.
"Much better," I replied. "The soreness is gone."
"Then they did work," he said.
"Now I can go to spring training," I said. "If I can afford a ticket, I'll sit in the bleachers."