Whatever happened to John Rocker?
The former FPD phenom made headlines both on and off the field while playing for the Atlanta Braves more than a decade ago. With a fastball that hovered around the 100 mph mark, the big left-hander recorded 83 saves for the Braves between 1998 and 2001. His best season was 1999, when he had 38 saves with a 2.49 ERA with 104 strikeouts in 71-1/3 innings as the Braves closer.
But as impressive as those numbers are, Rocker is more known -- infamously and unfortunately -- for a Sports Illustrated article in December 1999 when he voiced his not-so-glowing opinions about the New York Mets and the diverse population of the Big Apple. Those comments are well documented, so there is no reason to rehash them here.
Now 37 and out of baseball since playing for the independent Long Island Ducks (yes, in New York) in 2005, Rocker resides in Atlanta, where he heads a real estate development company that has built more than 800 units -- both multi-family and single-family, during the past seven years.
In an interview promoting his autobiography that was released in December, Rocker acknowledged that he used performance enhancing drugs while a member of the Braves. Rocker said it was a common practice in the majors at the time.
Rocker, Scars and Strikes is a thorough account of my long and winding road to the major leagues, life as a major-leaguer, along with an array of thoughts, feelings, opinions and commentaries giving some much-needed clarity regarding the Sports Illustrated article that I am most known for, Rocker said.
Rocker said he still keeps up with baseball, but on a limited basis.
Obviously, I dont follow baseball to the same degree I once did, Rocker said. I will, however, make it a point to watch a game that contains a good pitching matchup or will make an effort to watch LCS or World Series ball. Other than that, I dont have much interest in Game 116 between the Cubs and Astros.
What a lot of people dont know is Rockers involvement with charitable organizations. He has worked with dozens of them throughout the country.
Unfortunately, my charity work has dropped off to some degree over the last couple of years, but I am planning to get back to a higher level of effort in the near term, Rocker said. The greatest degree of motivation I have for doing charity work is simply to bring a degree of happiness to someones life through an experience that may not be possible without me.
That experience may be going on a hunt or to a baseball game or maybe a NASCAR event, or it could be something as simple as sitting down for a 15-minute conversation and signing a ball. Most of the work Ive done over the years, and I think my greatest efforts will continue to be in the future, is with children who have incurable life-threatening illness or who have sustained a debilitating injury.
Asked if he would make changes to his career if he had to do it over, Rocker said he would have paid more attention to his health.
The only thing I would have done differently as I look back at what ended my career and with 20/20 hindsight vision, I would not have pushed my tattered body during the last year of my career, when my health clearly was not what it needed to be to pitch at the major league level, Rocker said. Being hard-headed and stubborn to the end and of the belief that If theres no blood, then you are not hurt, I kept going out there in Texas and Tampa when I clearly should have taken the recommendation of doctors and trainers and had shoulder surgery much sooner than it actually occurred.
Rocker said he stays in contact with friends in Macon and gets to the city five to six times a year.
Contact Bobby Pope at email@example.com