|Thursday, April 14
Rocker to play for Long Island Ducks
NEW YORK -- John Rocker has put the controversial comments he made about New Yorkers six years ago behind him, and hopes they can, too.
"I don't have any ill feelings [toward New York], and it would be nice to think that the New York people can be as mature as I think I am now and bury the hatchet and move on," the 30-year-old left-hander told the New York Post in Thursday's editions.
Rocker, who signed a contract with the Long Island Ducks of the independent Atlantic League last week, became the center of controversy in 1999 when he made disparaging comments in Sports Illustrated about New Yorkers, gays and minorities while pitching for the Atlanta Braves. He later retracted the comments and apologized.
"Everybody is a lot different person at 24 than they are at 30," Rocker said in Alpharetta, Ga., where he's working out before joining the Ducks. "There's been a lot of growing that's been done, a lot of maturing that's been done."
Rocker hasn't pitched in the majors since 2003, when he allowed one run, two hits and three walks in one inning for Tampa Bay. He had surgery in July of that year to repair a torn rotator cuff.
In parts of six major league seasons, Rocker went 12-22 with 88 saves and a 3.42 ERA. His best season came in 1999, when he went 4-5 with a 2.49 ERA and 38 saves for the NL champion Braves.
He hopes to pitch well enough for the Ducks that he's signed by a major league team -- possibly even the Mets -- within six weeks of the season opener on April 28.
"Whoever wants to give me a jersey and sign my check, I'll play for," Rocker said. "I don't care who it is."
Rocker said his controversial comments were just his way of fueling the rivalry between the Braves and Mets, and weren't meant to disparage New Yorkers.
"I just hope people understand how long ago it was and by me coming up there, I'm showing some good faith and I don't have anything against the people of New York," he said.