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Would you take PEDs? Choose your own adventure!

Try to make the big leagues— and keep a clean conscience!

Dominican Republic v Australia - WBSC U-15 World Cup Group B Photo by Hector Vivas/Getty Images

We are all flawed humans who strive to succeed in our professions of choice. For most of us, baseball is nothing more than entertainment, but for players it’s a high-stakes livelihood.

It’s easy to for fans to say they would never take performance enhancing drugs (PEDs), but if you’re living that life, if everything you ever wanted depended on the batter vs. pitcher, they might be difficult to decline. Even Bob Gibson, the inner circle Hall of Famer, isn’t sure if he could’ve resisted.

None of us really knows what choice we would make unless we’ve actually lived that life. To simulate the decisions players have to make about their careers, here is a “Choose your own adventure” game!

To start as a 16-year-old shortstop from the Dominican Republic, go to CHAPTER ONE.

To start as a 22-year old right-handed pitcher drafted out of college, go to CHAPTER TWO.

To start as a 17-year-old center fielder from a low-income high school in Louisiana, go to CHAPTER THREE.

Chapter One

You grew up in a poor farming community, in which baseball was everything. You used a milk carton as a glove until you were ten, when your family saved enough money to buy one second-hand. You may have grown up using rocks and branches for balls and bats, but there’s no denying your talent. At age-13, you left home for a baseball academy in hope of signing a contract that will allow your family to escape poverty. Now that you’re 16, you’ve stood out enough to earn a $15,000 signing bonus. It’s life changing money, but not nearly as much as you hoped for.

To begin your professional career, go to CHAPTER FOUR.

Chapter Two

It’s draft day! When you threw 86 miles per hour as a high school senior, you weren’t sure you’d ever make it this far. You accepted a partial scholarship at a Division-II school in California, trained hard to reshape your body, and now you throw 94 with a decent slider. While you’re clearly no first rounder, you gladly sign for an under-slot bonus as an eighth round pick.

To begin your minor league career, go to CHAPTER FIVE.

Chapter Three

You LOVE baseball, and your natural speed makes you an exciting defensive outfielder and leadoff hitter. Unfortunately, growing up with little money, you can’t afford to parade yourself on the showcase circuit. Instead, you accept a college scholarship as a wide receiver.

Your baseball career is OVER!

Chapter Four

You aren’t off to a very good start in the Dominican Summer League. You’ve beaten out a few singles, but you can’t buy a walk or extra base hit to save your life. Despite your outstanding shortstop range and arm, defensive miscues have plagued your season. At this point, you have to worry that you’ll get cut and never make it off the island.

Will you take PEDs to jump start your career? If YES, go to CHAPTER FIVE. If NO, go to CHAPTER FIFTEEN.

Chapter Five

Welcome to small town America, also known as A-ball. Life is VERY different than where you’re from, and you’re having a hard time adjusting. You need to accelerate your path to the big leagues because you really can’t take much more of this.

Will you take PEDs to get out of the low minors? If YES, go to CHAPTER SEVEN. If NO, go to CHAPTER ELEVEN.

Chapter Six

After pitching a little in short season ball after the draft, you spend the next year essentially repeating A-ball. You’re doing just fine in the middle of the rotation, but other players are getting promoted faster. You overhear a few scouts say you’re “old for your level.”

Will you take PEDs to reach the high minors and beyond? If YES, go to CHAPTER FOURTEEN. If NO, go to CHAPTER EIGHT.

Chapter Seven

INJURY! You collide with a teammate trying to catch a popup. The other guy is fine, but something snaps in your left knee. You hop off the field with assistance and immediately go for an X-ray and MRI. The news isn’t good: you’ll be out of action for four to six months.

Will you take PEDs to speed up your recovery? If YES, go to CHAPTER FIFTEEN. If NO, go to CHAPTER NINE.

Chapter Eight

Now in high-A, your pitching coach wants you to develop a changeup. It hasn’t gone well, and opposing managers know they can stack the lineup with lefties because you can’t get them out. Your manager has little choice but to move you to the bullpen, where they hope your fastball/slider combo plays up. Did you ever hear about that velocity bump most pitchers get when they go to the bullpen? It never comes, and you’re still not getting enough outs.

Will you take PEDs to improve your velocity? If YES, go to CHAPTER TEN. If NO, go to CHAPTER NINE.

Chapter Nine

After a particularly rough game, the manager calls you into his office. “There’s no easy way to say this, son,” he sighs heavily, avoiding eye contact. “We have to let you go. You’re a good kid, and I wish you all the luck in the world.” You clean out your locker, say a few goodbyes, and buy a ticket home.

Your baseball career is OVER!

Chapter Ten

You’re doing pretty well on the field, but there’s problems on the home front. Your beloved grandmother is very ill, and your family has trouble keeping up with her medical expenses. Your mom took a third job on the weekends to make ends meet. With a strong finish to the season, your agent thinks you could make the 40-man roster, which comes with a substantial pay increase and benefits.

Will you take PEDs to make the 40-man roster and save Nana? If YES, go to CHAPTER FOURTEEN. If NO, go to CHAPTER TWELVE.

Chapter Eleven

The season is over, and not a moment too soon. Minor league life is simply awful. Frustrated, homesick, and broke, you decide to hang up your spikes for good.

Your baseball career is OVER!

Chapter Twelve

You’ve made the major leagues!! While never an acclaimed prospect, you finally made your dream come true. Everything about life in the majors is better— the food, the money, the clubhouse, and especially the parties. The team views you as an up-and-down organizational guy, but you don’t ever want to go back to the minors again. Can you prove that you belong here?

Will you take PEDs to try to prolong your stay in the big leagues? If YES, go to CHAPTER THIRTEEN. If NO, go to CHAPTER ELEVEN.

Chapter Thirteen

Your major league career has been touch-and-go for a few years now. You’ve been sent down a few times, but you’re in the big leagues more often than not. You’re really nothing special on the roster, but if you can stick around all year, you’ll be arbitration eligible after the season. There’s just one problem— a big name prospect is bubbling up behind you, turning heads in triple-A. If he takes your job, say goodbye to that sweet arbitration salary.

Will you take PEDs to fend off the prospect and earn arbitration money? If YES, go to EIGHTEEN. If NO, go to SIXTEEN.

Chapter Fourteen

Your roommate is busted! He gets caught taking PEDs and is immediately released. Most people on the team were already suspicious of you, so it’s time to clean up your act. For the rest of the story, you can only choose NO.

Continue at CHAPTER TWELVE, but remember, no more PEDs!

Chapter Fifteen

Hitting isn’t working out for you. You have a hard time catching up to fastballs, and breaking pitches just seem to disappear. It’s a matter of days before you get cut. Your best tool is your arm, so maybe you should give pitching a try.

Will you continue your career as a pitcher? If YES, go to CHAPTER SIX. If NO, go to CHAPTER NINE.

Chapter Sixteen

Against all odds, you’ve become a major league starter. You certainly won’t be an All-Star, but you’re a starter nonetheless. With free agency on the horizon, this coming year is the most important of your career. A good, healthy season could be the difference between $5M and $50M.

Will you take PEDs to maximize your next contract? If YES, go to CHAPTER EIGHTEEN. If NO, go to CHAPTER SEVENTEEN.

Chapter Seventeen

It’s not your best year, but you’ve made it to free agency. Your agent can’t find a multiyear deal, but you happily accept a 1 year, $4M offer with incentives. You know there probably aren’t too many more years left for you, but you can ride it out on deals like this for as long as they last. You retire in your early thirties with a respectable Baseball-Reference page and a swollen bank account.

Your baseball career is OVER!

Chapter Eighteen

DISASTER! You’ve been caught! After serving a 50 game suspension, you sheepishly apologize to your teammates. Your return to the field isn’t going well, and you get designated for assignment. You weren’t a superstar to begin with, so teams aren’t exactly lining up to give you a second chance. You ride it out in the minors for a few years with three different organizations, then call it quits.

Your baseball career is OVER!

Daniel R. Epstein is an elementary special education teacher and president of the Somerset County Education Association. In addition to BtBS, he writes at Tweets @depstein1983