WINTER HAVEN, Fla. - Overwhelmed with regret and pained by a shortsighted decision he wishes he could take back, Tim Laker began moving away from his tainted past.
Laker, a former major league catcher who admitted in the Mitchell Report that he injected himself with steroids to gain an edge, expressed sadness and deep remorse Sunday as he discussed cheating the game he loves.
"I made a poor decision, a mistake," a contrite and ashamed Laker said. "And all I can do is ask for forgiveness and move on."
One of more than 80 current and former players named in the report, Laker played with Montreal, Baltimore, Pittsburgh, Tampa Bay and Cleveland from 1992-2005. He managed in the Indians' minor league system last year, but decided not to this season partly because of health concerns. He's currently a roving catching instructor for Cleveland.
The 38-year-old Laker was diagnosed in 1992 with colitis, a digestive disease, and he'd had other serious health issues, nearly dying in 2001 when his pancreas became infected. Laker doesn't think his steroid use is tied to any of his health problems, including a hospital stay this winter because of another bout with colitis.
Laker told George Mitchell's investigators that he met admitted steroid distributor Kirk Radomski, a former New York Mets clubhouse employee, when he was with the Expos. The two were introduced by Laker's teammate, David Segui.
In the report, Laker said he purchased Deca-Durabolin and testosterone during the late 1990s. He had first considered using steroids before the 1995 season and did research by reading magazines and talking to individuals outside the game about the effects.
Looking back, he wished he had considered other consequences.
"I probably didn't think about it enough and probably didn't think of the ramifications 12 years down the road," he said.
Laker opened his interview session by discussing the discomfort his link to the Mitchell Report has caused his family. Clearing his throat, he nervously described having to look his 16-year-old stepson, Brando, in the eye after the report was issued.
He expressed similar distress that his wife and mother have endured questions from outsiders wondering about Laker's sordid history. Laker, who spent the majority of his career in the minors, told Mitchell's investigators that after purchasing steroids from Radomski that he injected himself in the buttocks once a week for a few months.
"I regret that as many good things as baseball has given me and as many good things it has done for me, I regret that I have to sit here and talk about steroids instead of talking about baseball," he said.
During his two-hour session with Mitchell's investigators, Laker said he was convinced that using steroids would "enhance (his) performance." He refused to elaborate on his reasons for taking the drugs, and said he was too uncomfortable to discuss the culture of baseball at the time when steroid abuse was the game's dirty little secret.
"I'm not in a position to give my opinion on anybody," he said. "I just have to focus on what I do and my own regrets."
Laker was required to meet with Mitchell's investigators because he's a Major League Baseball employee. He said he did not consider resigning to avoid having to tell a story that he's embarrassed about.
Laker didn't offer much of an explanation for why he took performance-enhancing drugs. However, he pointed to his difficulty maintaining weight on his 6-foot-3 frame as a possible reason for being lured into trying them.
"Along with weight comes strength," he said. "That's what led me to doing it."
There wasn't one main reason why he stopped, and Laker even joked that steroids didn't seem to help him much.
"Just look at my stats," the career .226 hitter said with a smile. "It wasn't an illustrious career."
Indians manager Eric Wedge, a close friend, pledged his unwavering support of Laker, who played for him at Triple-A Buffalo and with the Indians.
"I feel strong about him as a person. We're proud to have him in the organization," said Wedge, who looks forward to the day steroids are no longer an issue. "As long as the game can come out ahead on the other end, and there's a more clear message to kids, that's all I care about."
Laker hopes others can learn from his missteps. He stepped down from managing to focus on his health but hopes to get back to it someday.
"I've been in baseball since I was 18 years old," he said. "It's the only life I know. I hope to be in it for another 20 years."