Like with many kids, my love of the game began the first time my dad handed me a baseball. I knew I wanted baseball to be a big part of my life, and it turned out that I had some talent. I’ll be the first to say I wasn’t the most naturally gifted pitcher. But I loved the sport and trusted that, if I persevered after being drafted by the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2010, I might be able to work my way up through the minors and have a major league career.
I made my first appearance in the majors for the Diamondbacks in 2014. From there, I played for the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2015, where at one point I was proud to post a 2.83 earned-run average through 16 starts. I was sidelined for most of the 2016 season with an injury, then was traded to the Toronto Blue Jays and sent to Triple-A. Focusing on getting back to big leagues, I embraced the label of journeyman.
Toward the middle of the 2017 season, I was transitioning into the role of relief pitcher. My first few games as a reliever made me optimistic: This could be my future in baseball. Then came the Astros game on Aug. 4, 2017, in Houston.
I remember the game vividly, because it was my last and worst in major league baseball. The stadium was packed. I live in Texas, so my wife and her friends were there. The Astros got off to a lead, and I was brought in during the fourth inning. The Astros seemed to know every pitch that was coming. I threw 29 pitches, and the Astros scored four runs off me in one-third of an inning before I was taken out. My pitches were getting smashed, and I ended up walking a few batters because the Astros appeared to know when to lay off. The postgame recaps said I had unraveled. I knew as I left the mound that this could be it; for a journeyman pitcher, a game that bad could be his last.
After the game, I recall, the Astros bragged during interviews about how well they had played. I was immediately designated for assignment by the Blue Jays — which means I was cut from the team’s 40-man roster. I accepted responsibility for my performance, picked up my belongings and have never played in the major leagues again.
From there, my life completely changed. I accepted a pitching job in Japan to earn money to support my family. I didn’t want to be defined by that disastrous inning against the Astros. My wife was pregnant, so it was not ideal to move to a country where we didn’t have any friends or family around, but it was the only option I had.
Then, last fall, the rumblings began. A report in the Athletic revealed that during the 2017 season the Astros had engaged in electronic sign-stealing, using a video camera to monitor the other team’s catchers and then banging on a dugout trash can to let Houston’s batters know what pitch was coming. Naturally, I thought back to my last game in 2017. Until news about the cheating surfaced, I had accepted that I just got crushed by the Astros. But was it more than that?
In January, the MLB commissioner confirmed that the Astros had cheated. The league suspended their manager and general manager, and the team fired them. Journalists and concerned fans began studying video from 2017. They figured out the Astros had cheated more often on Aug. 4 than in any other game that season.
The news was difficult to take. I was shocked — and angry. The Astros had robbed me of the opportunity to determine my own future on the mound. If I failed at my craft because I wasn’t good enough, that would be on me. I could live with that. But thinking about the cheating and the toll it ultimately took on my family — that was something I couldn’t tolerate.
For weeks after the commissioner’s report, the Astros were unrepentant. Even on Thursday, when a couple of players apologized, the team owner said the Astros still deserved their World Series championship: “Our opinion is that this didn’t impact the game. We had a good team.”
My opinion is that cheating brought the Astros lavish rewards and that real accountability is needed. I want my lawsuit to lead to positive change. In addition to seeking personal damages, I’m demanding that the Astros donate their $31 million in 2017 postseason bonuses to charity. Baseball is at an important crossroads. How the game responds to this scandal will define its credibility and its existence for years to come.