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Tuesday, January 27, 2004
Updated: January 28, 8:14 AM ET
Minor leaguer: It was a 'one-time incident'

Associated Press

CLEVELAND -- Indians minor league pitcher Kazuhito Tadano is asking for forgiveness for what he called a one-time mistake -- his appearance in a gay porn video in which he engaged in a homosexual act.

Tadano took part in the video three years ago when he was a college student. Sitting in Cleveland's clubhouse Tuesday, he said he hoped to put his actions in the past.

"All of us have made mistakes in our lives," Tadano said, reading a statement in English. "Hopefully, you learn from them and move on."

Shunned by Japanese baseball teams, the 23-year-old Tadano signed with the Indians last March. They think he can make their club this spring.

Tadano gave few details about the video, which he made after his sophomore year at Rikkyo University.

"I did participate in a video and I regret it very much," he said. "It was a one-time incident that showed bad judgment and will never be repeated. I was young, playing baseball, and going to college and my teammates and I needed money.

"Frankly, if I were more mature and had really thought about the implications of what I did, it never would have happened."

Through an interpreter, Tadano added: "I'm not gay. I'd like to clear that fact up right now."

The Indians set up the media session after getting many requests from reporters to speak with Tadano. The team wanted to address the issue before spring training starts next month.

Tadano's admission will certainly draw attention to homosexuality in baseball, a sensitive issue that most players prefer to not even discuss.

There are no openly gay players in the big leagues today. The same is true in the NFL, NHL and NBA.

Tadano was one of Japan's top college pitchers and expected to be a high first-round pick in 2002. But after a Japanese tabloid published photos of him in the video a month before the draft, pro teams in Japan did not select him.

"The commissioner of Japanese baseball came out and said, 'You will not draft Tadano,' " asserted the pitcher's agent, Alan Nero. "But this kid didn't assault anybody. He didn't commit murder. If anything, he is guilty of being naive."

Twice in the minor leagues last season, Tadano stood before his teammates and confessed to his participation in the video, which Nero said can only be obtained on the black market in Japan.

Tadano received overwhelming support from players at Kinston, N.C., where he started the season, and later at Akron, the Indians' Double-A affiliate.

"I wanted to tell the truth to my teammates," he said.

A former starter, he pitched in all three levels of the minors last season, going 6-2 with a 1.55 ERA and three saves. At Akron, he didn't allow a run in his first 28 innings and struck out 78 in 72 2/3 innings.

Outfielder Grady Sizemore said Tadano's speech last year was well-received in the clubhouse.

"You could tell he was nervous," said Sizemore, a top prospect who lived with Tadano this winter. "But I don't think it changed anybody's opinion of him. After it was said and done, nobody thought anything more of it. He's a great guy and a great pitcher."

If he pitches well during spring training, Tadano could win a spot in Cleveland's bullpen. Whenever he joins the Indians, pitcher C.C. Sabathia says Tadano will be welcomed.

"This is the right team and the right organization for him," Sabathia said. "We have good guys here. Everybody has done something that they regret in their lives. He's a person just like everyone else."

Tadano tried out for several major league teams last spring in Arizona. Coming off an elbow injury, he didn't get any offers. Nero said some teams were turned off by what he called "the scandal."

"He didn't pitch well enough for them to ignore it," Nero said. "I also think they were afraid of the baggage that would come with it."

Not the Indians. They liked Tadano enough to invite him to work out at their spring training facility in Winter Haven, Fla. Eventually, they signed him to a minor league contract that included a $67,500 bonus.

General manager Mark Shapiro said the team decided to sign Tadano despite knowing there could be backlash.

"We thought the upside was well worth the risk, energy and time to support him," Shapiro said.

Tadano knows he may face fan abuse in major league parks such as Yankee Stadium, where heckling the visitors is part of the pageantry.

He joked that he's ready for it.

"I don't understand English, so it doesn't really matter," he said.