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Clean and sober in Arizona

By Jack Magruder
October 8, 2002

Jack Hannahan
Photo: Greg Wagner
MESA, Ariz.--Jack Hannahan took his first drink when he was 14 and his last on July 28, 2000, and so many in between he lost count. He could not tell you how many if he wanted to.

"I'd go out and I'd drink," said Hannahan, 22. "I'd end up blacking out. Next thing I know, I'd wind up somewhere I wouldn't want to be. I wouldn't know how I got there, or what drugs I took while I was there. It led to many visits to jail. Many visits to detox. I'm just thankful I didn't kill anyone or kill myself."

Hannahan, a third baseman, is in his first season in the Arizona Fall League after signing for a $470,000 bonus after the Tigers drafted him in the third round in 2001, fresh off being the Big Ten Conference player of the year at Minnesota.

He hit a combined .256-9-62 while splitting time between high Class A Lakeland and Double-A Erie, a promising step in a career that was careening out of control even as he was hammering Big Ten pitching his first two years for the Golden Gophers.

"I had my first drink in eighth grade. The moment that I touched it, I loved it," said Hannahan, a local hero who grew up in St. Paul and stayed in the Twin Cities for college.

"I just kept doing it. It opened up to other drugs and became a huge problem. I didn't realize it was a problem, because all my friends were doing it. Being in the middle of 60,000 students on campus, it surrounds you. That's what you do. You're in college. You party. And that's what I did.

"I just took it to the next level. Everyone would stop drinking at one o'clock when the bars would close. I'd drink until four or five every night and try to go out and play baseball. It didn't work."

Despite the extra-curriculars, Hannahan's numbers were impressive his first two seasons at Minnesota. He hit .360-4-30 as a freshman and .327-8-43 as a sophomore. But he believes he had much more to give.

"I could have done much better, definitely. Seeing two, three balls when you are at the plate for five innings doesn't help," he said. He said he often was still recovering from the night before, when he might have had 15 beers, for the first five innings of games.

Hannahan's metamorphosis to clean and sober began the summer before his junior season, after he passed out on a woman's lawn and she called the police, presuming him dead.

Hannahan was placed in an ambulance and was headed for another trip to detox before he came to and convinced paramedics to take him home, where he finally admitted to his mother--and to himself--that he needed to change. He entered an inpatient treatment facility that afternoon.

"Finally I got the help I needed. It turned my life around," said Hannahan, who had an RBI groundout in his first AFL game with Mesa.

"As it turned out, I was an inch away from getting kicked off my team in college. My whole career it was a problem. It led up to many, many rock bottoms. It got to the point where I was sick of having my family my worry about me.

"The bigger part was just me, how my life was going. I didn't want to go down that road where it was going. There was nothing but negative things happening to me. I didn't like how my life was. I had to stop, and I got the help I needed.

"If I wouldn't have done that, I wouldn't be here. I probably wouldn't even have finished college ball. If I hadn't have gotten sober, I would have been done with baseball, to be honest with you."

As it is, Hannahan broke out in 2001, hitting .372-15-63 with 16 stolen bases. He not only led the conference in homers, RBIs and runs (65), but also became a leader and a respected teammate.

After spending a few weeks after the draft with short-season Oneonta, Hannahan continued his offensive prowess by batting .318-1-27 in 46 games at Class A West Michigan, a notorious pitcher's park. He hit 15 doubles and drove in 35 in 235 at-bats between the two stops.

Hannahan's numbers were not what he wanted in 2002, but he did get a chance to play Double-A in his second pro season, a leap not many make.

"I thought it was kind of a down year," he said, "but it was a learning experience, being my first full season. I got a taste of 140 games.

"Overall, it was all right. The whole season really wore on me. I had to get used to it. Double-A is a big step up from A ball. The pitchers were much better, and everyone in the field can play. Anything with a little air under it in the outfield is getting caught."

But while some of his hits were caught this season, Hannahan played solid defense at third base at both Lakeland and Erie, his 21 errors notwithstanding.

"That's what kept me going through the year--when my hitting wasn't there, my defense was still there. That kept me normal," Hannahan said.

The new normal. The abstinent normal. The one that makes him a candidate at third base in the Tigers' youth movement.


• Peoria third baseman Mark Teixeira (Rangers) homered from both sides of the plate on Opening Day Oct. 1, leading the Javelinas to a 9-4 victory over defending champion Phoenix. Teixeira, who had five hits, hit a solo homer batting righthanded in the fifth and a three-run homer from the left side in the sixth for a 7-1 lead. He also had three singles, his last one an infield hit.

• Maryvale righthander Cheyenne Janke (Cardinals), a late roster addition to the league, struck out four in two scoreless innings to get a victory in relief Oct. 2. Janke replaced 1999 sandwich pick Nick Stocks, shut down after making 11 starts over the summer.

• The league, which had a franchise in Tucson for the first two seasons, plans to play three leagues games in Tucson during the general managers' meetings there Nov. 10-14. Maryvale and Scottsdale will play Nov. 11, Grand Canyon and Mesa will play Nov. 12, and Phoenix and Peoria will play Nov. 12. All three games will be played at Frank Sancet Field at the University of Arizona.

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