Twenty-four hours in an '88 Grand Am is a long time for a released player to ponder the thin line between the minors and the majors, between a dream realized and one broken to bits. But not once did it occur to him that the way to cross that thin line was with steroids. Meanwhile, Dan Naulty was beginning his third season with the Twins, pulling down $185,000 and living the major league life.
He was good at keeping secrets. Steroids? He carried around worse demons for much longer without anybody knowing.
In 1976, Dan Naulty was six years old and living in Pasadena when his father, Richard, and his mother, Una Mae, divorced. Richard stayed in Pasadena while Dan moved to Palos Verdes, Calif., with his mother and older sister, who was 10. Dan saw his father every other weekend. His mother would soon be overwhelmed with the care of his sister, who by her early teens was a heroin and crack addict and a thief who habitually stole from her mother. (Naulty's sister is now clean and sober.)
"I was raising myself from seven [years old]," Naulty says. "I didn't have that moral compass that parents are when you're younger. I was my own compass. I was having sex at a very, very young age, making terrible decisions about every area of life. You saw a pattern in my life starting at seven of making terrible decisions."
The boy had a gift for baseball, though. When Dan was 12, a local coach who knew of the boy's talent suggested that Dan and Richard move to Huntington Beach, where the competition was better. The Naultys agreed. Soon, however, Richard took a job as a management consultant in Kuwait that kept him overseas for all but a few days each month, leaving Dan in the care of others.
The abuse of young Dan by the coach, who never had him on a team, began so slowly and gradually—the hand on the leg, the rubbing of the back, the massages—that he doesn't even remember the first time it crossed into sex. "It's a very slow process," Naulty says, "and then once you're sucked in and they're abusing you on a regular basis, you're so afraid to say anything. I couldn't tell somebody I was being sexually abused, because I thought maybe it was my fault. I was 12, man."
As the coach was sexually abusing Dan, so, too, was a woman, a teacher. Una Mae, who still spent time with Dan, had no idea about any of it. The abuse by both the coach and the teacher, which were not connected, went on for several years, until Dan was 15. "In my situation I was willing to give a little to get a little ... to get the love I so desperately wanted. It's whacked. I'm not sure I can explain it other than I was a desperately hopeless little kid and really wanted adults, an authority figure in my life, to love me."
Naulty likens his upbringing to the launching of a rocket toward the moon with a one-centimeter mistake in the launch angle. The rocket winds up missing the target by 100,000 miles. "I was a little off [at the start]," he said, "and by the time I was older I was way off."
Naulty did not tell anybody about the coach or the teacher until he was 30 years old. As with steroids, he kept the unspeakable unspoken for too long. "It's a similar feeling to cheating the Kevin Legaults of the world," he says. "It's, 'I abused you' or 'I let others be abused by you' and never said anything. Those two things in my life I think about a lot and am saddened a lot because I shouldn't have done it. I'm culpable even though I was the one being abused. I recognize I'm guilty for not doing [anything]."
The stuff works. When Naulty beat out Roberts for a roster spot with the 1996 Twins, he was throwing the ball harder and better than ever before. The skinny kid from California, the fringe prospect from Fullerton who threw 85 mph, had become a physical beast and was blowing the ball past major league hitters. By August '96, Naulty had pitched in 47 games for Minnesota and had a 2.65 ERA. Big league hitters were batting .194 against him. Nobody questioned why.