Published March 17, 2010
PEORIA, Ariz. (AP) — Before he could end a long day unlike any in his professional career, Ron Washington had to prepare for a game.
Hours after admitting he made a "huge mistake" by using cocaine — he says for the first and only time — and failing a Major League Baseball drug test last season, the Texas manager emerged from the Rangers' clubhouse at Peoria Stadium carrying a sandwich and something to drink.
With a night exhibition scheduled against the Seattle Mariners, Washington headed toward the field alone with his thoughts.
It's a walk he has made thousands of times. This one was different.
As he passed a group of fans waiting for autographs on an embankment, a lone voice called out to Washington from behind the fence.
"We forgive you, Ron," the man hollered.
Washington waved and said thanks.
An unexpected wish, and a needed one.
On Wednesday, the 57-year-old Washington made an emotional apology for using the drug, calling his behavior "stupid and shameful." He revealed that he had tested positive last July and had attempted to resign but Rangers president Nolan Ryan turned down his offer.
"I made a huge mistake and it almost caused me to lose everything I have worked for all of my life," Washington said at a news conference at the Rangers' training complex that was attended by many of his players. "I am not here to make excuses. There are none."
Washington's failed test first was reported by SI.com.
Before his news conference, Washington spoke from his heart to the Rangers, asking them to forgive him. He felt ashamed, humiliated.
"He was very emotional, you could tell that he's a broken man from this one bad choice he made," Texas star Josh Hamilton said.
Hamilton has his own drug-riddled past. The All-Star outfielder was suspended for the 2004 season when he was in the minors for Tampa Bay. Hamilton is the most prominent player in the last decade to be disciplined for a so-called recreational drug that predated steroids as baseball's biggest problem.
Hamilton said there were no parallels between his problems and Washington's admission of one-time use.
"I was addicted to drugs. All I cared about was getting more and using more drugs. I didn't care who I hurt," Hamilton said. "This was something of a weak moment, a decision of choice ... Our stories are nothing alike. The fact is he made a mistake. He learned from it very quickly."
Hamilton could understand why someone like Washington would only try the drug and stop using.
"You either like it or you don't like it. Either you do it once or you do it more than once," Hamilton said. "That's the way it is."
Washington said he told the commissioner's office and Rangers officials about using cocaine before he had a routine drug test.
"He stood up to it. We felt like he was sincere and forthright," Ryan said. "We are very disappointed by this. We are upset we were put in this position."
Six-time All-Star Michael Young said his Texas teammates were behind their manager.
"Based on the kind of person that Wash is, the kind of person that we know him to be, we support him 100 percent," Young said. "This isn't going to be any kind of distraction in terms of us getting ready for the season. I think if anything it's going to make us rally around him even more."
Washington has been subject to increased testing since he failed, and said he has passed every subsequent test. He said he has completed the MLB drug treatment program.
Management has a different set of drug-testing rules than the ones for players on 40-man rosters that were negotiated by Major League Baseball and the players' association.
For management employees who test positive for cocaine and other recreational drugs — as opposed to steroids and performance-enhancing drugs — treatment is mandatory and decisions on discipline are made by the team and MLB on a case by case basis.
Bob DuPuy, baseball's chief operating officer, MLB spokesman Rich Levin and players' association head Michael Weiner declined comment on Washington.
Washington's contract was extended last year for 2010 before the drug test. His contract expires after this year, which will be his fourth with Texas. The Rangers, out of the playoffs since 1999, stayed in postseason contention until late in the year last season and finished 87-75.
"Here's the biggest question: How and why did this happen?" Washington said. "That's a question I have had to face in numerous sessions with counselors. I recognize that this episode was an attempt to dodge personal anxieties and personal issues I needed to confront.
"That was the wrong way to do it. It was self-serving, and believe me, not worth it. I know you will ask, and so here's the answer: This was the one and only time I used this drug."
Asked whether he believed Washington's explanation, Ryan said: "I don't know the circumstances, but after Major League Baseball investigated it, they came back and felt like it was a one-time incident. Ron expressed that to us."
Rangers general manager Jon Daniels said team management was initially "shocked, disappointed, angry" when Washington told them about his drug use.
"We felt it was important he acknowledged doing what he did. That was our first priority," Daniels said.
Chicago White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen felt for Washington.
"Don't look at him as some crazy guy out there. Players love him, baseball loves him. He just made a mistake," he said. "He's going through right now a lot of pain, a lot of embarrassment."
Hamilton, who said he knew nothing of Washington's cocaine use until Wednesday, said the matter was rightly handled privately by the organization.
"You know we're a team," Hamilton said. "We're pulling behind Wash. We respect him more than anybody. For me personally as a player, I feel real privileged and honored to have Wash as a manager because he is a guy you can trust, a guy you can look to and know he's going to do the right thing."
Washington had been a coach with the Oakland Athletics for 11 years when Texas hired him in November 2006. His only prior managerial experience had been two years in the low minors.
Washington played 10 seasons in the majors, mostly as an infielder for Minnesota in the 1980s.
AP Sports Writer Bob Baum in Surprise, Ariz., contributed to this report.