More Sad Than Anything

Josh Lueke, who’s been the subject of rape accusations, was acquired by the Tampa Bay Rays in November. | Babbaloie/ photobucket.com

On November 27, 2011, the Tampa Bay Rays acquired minor league pitcher Josh Lueke from the Seattle Mariners, in exchange for 28-year-old catcher John Jaso. The trade didn’t make much of a splash; it was essentially the swapping of someone with higher upside and less experience for a veteran catcher.

This column was going to be about a few players. Luke Scott and Taylor Guerrieri. It was going to look back at Josh Hamilton and Elijah Dukes and even Delmon Young. But the Internet is a crazy thing. I was going to write about quite a few players who have made me question the commitment to character this organization holds itself to. But after Googling Josh Lueke, I decided he deserves a column all to himself.

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Rape is a sensitive thing. It’s sometimes hard to determine and almost always hard to prosecute. When it comes to Lueke’s case, there are a few facts; According to the Tampa Bay Times, in 2008, while pitching for a minor league affiliate of the Texas Rangers, Lueke went out drinking with some teammates and a woman whom he later brought back to his apartment.

The rest of the story, as reported by Bakersfield Now, a news source affiliated with Fox and CBS:

“The woman told police she remembered vomiting into the toilet at the apartment. While doing so, the woman told police someone she could not identify was standing at her side masturbating on her. She said she passed out, and when she awoke at around 8:45 a.m., she told police she was lying on a couch with her pants down and other parts of her clothing were missing.

She told police she felt violated and that she never agreed to have sex with anyone. Investigators later obtained DNA samples from semen found on the woman’s jeans and white tank top and from an anal swab.
A report from the Kern County Crime Lab states, “Josh Lueke matches this DNA” from the anal swab, tank top strap and hair of the alleged victim.”

Due to the role alcohol played in the scene as well as the woman’s unconscious state, prosecution was going to be difficult. Rather than press on, a no contest plea was accepted on a charge of false imprisonment with violence, and Lueke was sentenced to three years of probation as well as 62 days in jail. After 42 days, the final 20 were waived for good behavior.

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I could write all day about the legal system and how sad it is that rape goes unpunished and unnoticed so often in this country. But this is a sports column. And as a sports columnist, I’m left to wonder this; the Tampa Bay Rays traded for Josh Lueke.

In 2010, when the Mariners acquired Lueke from the Rangers, they denied knowledge of his history with the law. The Rays seem accepting. They’ve bought into the idea that they’re willing to take on high-risk players to potentially reap the high rewards. They’re willing to sign a player coming off major surgery (Luke Scott) or a former star trying to regain some momentum (Fernando Rodney).

Lueke has a high-90s fastball and boasted an earned run average under two in the minors in 2010. They acquired his talent for almost nothing, and guess what? As a baseball fan, a Rays fan and a human being, I do not care. Call me soft, but I don’t care that it was three years ago. I don’t care that he hasn’t been in trouble with the law since. I care that a woman dropped rape charges and all she requested was a public apology.

“I understand that my actions hurt you and made you feel violated,” Lueke read in the courtroom. “I’m sorry for that.”

This is someone who the Rays didn’t have to deal with. They saw a bargain and jumped on it, and they’re hoping their fan base is too stupid to read a newspaper or scan the Internet. When you Google “Tampa Bay Rays Rape”, nine out of ten results deal with a player on their payroll. I’m fairly certain that they’re among the only ball clubs with that distinction.

There is a story here unlike anything we’ve seen from good guys Matt Silverman and Andrew Friedman. I’m a lot of things, but mostly disheartened.

For so long this has been a club built on lovable underdogs. It just has so little moral upside. So what if he becomes our closer? Maybe he wins 20 games. No matter the success, you will never be able to make him a true superstar. He gave that away. I don’t care if he wins the Cy Young – you can never let a kid wear his jersey.

Some people will forget, but some of us won’t.

I don’t think that woman in Texas ever will.

This article was originally published in The Minaret.

USA Today College Feature

For my work on the crazy video gaming piece, I was featured in a January portion of USA Today | College. Here’s a portion of my interview and the link to the piece in its entirety.

Student plays video games for 24 hours straight… and lives to write about it

By: Dan Reimold

Late last semester, Miles Parks decided to play video games for 24 hours straight. Or in his words, “I was going to sit and game and turn my cerebral cortex into applesauce.”

The University of Tampa student, an admittedly light gamer, conducted the multi-player, multi-platform, multi-game experiment in part to better understand his many friends and classmates who “can sit down at one end of an evening and beat up bad guys until the sun rises.”

Amid the endless sports games and a helping of Mario Party, Parks kept a running diary and a video log, enabling his audience to slowly follow his descent into cranky numbness.

“Honestly, I’m spent,” he wrote after hour 12.  “I eat pasta and I can barely even enjoy it.  I’m so hungry and so tired and I feel nauseous.  My stomach hurts and feels queasy and I’ve had a headache for five hours. . . . I’ve given up keeping track of my wins and losses.  The outcome doesn’t really matter anymore.”

At the close of the marathon session, he slept heartily and awoke feeling guilty about the time he had wasted in front of the Wii, Xbox, and Playstation.

Yet, gaming’s pull still proved strong.  The next night, he watched football at a friend’s house.  As he recounted in a piece for The Minaret, “I get up to leave and he asks if I want to play a game of NHL with him on Xbox. . . . ‘Just one,’ I reply.”

In the Q&A below, Parks talks more about the challenge’s rigors and rationale and video games’ role in subverting students’ undergraduate experiences.

Q: First, what motivated you to take on this challenge?

A: I’ve been reading a lot of first-person writing over the past few months and it’s pretty obvious that if you truly want an entertaining story, you’ve got to go big and you’ve got to do something you relate to.  I’m in college; half of my friends spend their lives attached to a television.  As I mention in the story, my mom has always drilled into my head that video games are bad for your soul.  Basically, I’ve had these two opposing viewpoints shown to me about a prominent part of pop culture, and I wanted to see who was right.  The best way to do that was to write about it.

Q: What are your thoughts on the video game culture you see among students nowadays?

A: What I’ve begun to realize is that this culture and these electronics affect everyone differently, similar to drug use.  Some people can smoke [ahem, certain illegal substances] and still write papers and get straight As.  Others are going to end up on their couch with a bag of Fritos and a 1.8 GPA.

I think the ones who are really obsessed with video games need to take a deep breath and a step back.  You’re paying your tuition (which for me, at a private university, is upwards of $30,000 a year) to sit in your bedroom or living room.  At some point, you’ve got to take advantage of your environment.  It’s cliché but it’s true.  You’re not going to remember what you did in that game on that couch in 30 years.  We’re not truly diving headfirst into our education if we’re spending even a couple hours a day in front of a television.

The rest of the piece can be found here on USA Today College.