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Sunday, September 14, 2003
Caminiti: Eight months of sobriety

Associated Press

HOUSTON -- Former National League MVP Ken Caminiti, who is eight months removed from drug rehabilitation, has encouragement for recovering addicts and young people who may be tempted by narcotics.

Caminiti, who hit .272 in 15 major league seasons with Houston, San Diego, Texas and Atlanta, told participants at a health fair Saturday of his experiences at a state jail substance abuse treatment facility where he avoided jail time for cocaine use.

"It's not easy to share about how drugs and alcohol have messed you up," Caminiti, 40, told several hundred people attending the health fair in connection with National Alcohol and Drug Abuse Recovery Month. "The deal with me was, when I looked in the mirror, I was so good at lying to myself that even I didn't know how bad it was. I was in what you call denial.

"That's something you've got to look hard at yourself about and know that you've got a problem and be ready to fix it," he said. "It's very fixable and your life does get better. My life has been a full turnaround."

On Nov. 14, 2001, with television news cameras recording the scene, Caminiti sat in the back seat of a police car after his arrest in connection with cocaine possession at a motel on the Southwest Freeway. Police accused hime and two others of smoking crack.

Caminiti's struggle with drugs followed his apparent triumph over alcoholism, which he announced in 1994, the first of three All-Star seasons. He recalled what followed his relapse and sentencing to three years' deferred adjudication probation.

"Basically, the end result was going through a divorce and not being there for my kids," he said.

Caminiti and his ex-wife, who married in November 1987, have three daughters.

After Caminiti failed a urine test in violation of probation, he spent six months last year in state custody.

"Just a little while ago, I was in jail," he said. "You think it's never going to happen to you. You think you'll never be locked up and never be put away. That was a real eye-opener for me, walking down the corridors in prison and having people walk up and say, 'Hey, Caminiti, sign my crack pipe.' "

Caminiti said it's no coincidence that his three best seasons in baseball, 1994-96, also were years that he was free of drugs and alcohol. Named the 1996 NL MVP, Caminiti has also acknowledged taking steroids during part of his tenure with the Padres, including his MVP year.

"This is keeping me sober today, giving back [the support] that was so freely given to me," he said. "I was nervous, I'm always nervous to come talk, especially about problems you've had in your life because of drugs. We all want to say we're better than that, that we have no problems."

The audience cheered when Caminiti said he had been clean and sober for eight months.

"Everything is good in my life right now, and that's because I'm drug-free," he said. "It's a tough deal, addiction. But it doesn't have to be that way. There are places to get help."

Caminiti told the Houston Chronicle after the appearance that he is involved in several business ventures, including a casual clothing line and a shop that will open soon to build race engines. He said he has not spoken with any of his former Astros teammates since his legal trouble began. He spent 10 seasons in Houston.

"I've kind of lost contact with everybody," he said.