Toronto Star

Former minor leaguer contemplat­es suing MLB over steroid usage

- MICHAEL O’KEEFFE NEW YORK DAILY NEWS

NEW YORK— Rich Hartmann sits in a booth at a Penn Station restaurant and sips on a beer as he waits with dozens of other commuters for the train home to Long Island and wonders what might have been. Hartmann, 35, is now an operations manager at a Manhattan bank, but in the mid-1990s he was a minor league pitcher in the St. Louis Cardinals’ organizati­on. He doesn’t know if he was good enough to play in the big leagues. But he suspects he never got a fair shot, and he’s certain there were many minor leaguers who were denied a chance at Major League Baseball because they wouldn’t use steroids.

“Was I cheated of my dreams of a big-league career?” Hartmann asks. “I don’t know. But I do know there were thousands of guys who were right on the doorstep between 1990 and 2005 and they were cheated because they didn’t use steroids.”

Hartman is so angry, in fact, that he’s considerin­g filing a class-action lawsuit against Major League Baseball on behalf of the minor leaguers who lost out on big-league contracts and the chance to play against baseball’s very best.

“If everybody was playing on the same level playing field, Rich would say, ‘Okay, you beat me,’ ” says Hartmann’s attorney Michael Salomon. “But this is not right.”

Hartmann says several former teammates have agreed to join the lawsuit if it is filed, and Salomon says he is exploring legal theories that would serve as the basis of a lawsuit.

But mostly, Hartmann says, he’s looking for a platform to point out that the biggest losers of baseball’s steroid era weren’t the fans, they were minor leaguers who were cheated of their dreams because a rival for a major-league job got a boost from steroids.

“I hear these guys apologize to fans, but at least the fans got to see some cool stuff,” Hartmann says. “They got to see tons of home runs . . . I’d love to see one of these guys apologize to the minor leaguers whose jobs they took with steroids.” MLB spokespers­on Rich Levin declined to comment on Hartmann’s lawsuit threat.

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