Gibbons to join Atlantic League

The Baltimore Sun

Former Orioles outfielder and club Most Valuable Player Jay Gibbons will return to professional baseball next week with a team in the independent Atlantic League.

Gibbons, whom the Orioles released in March, several months after he admitted to using human growth hormone and agreed to a Major League Baseball-imposed suspension, said he expects to sign with a New York- or New Jersey-based Atlantic League club by today and should be in uniform within days.

"I want to continue my career and start over," said Gibbons, 31. "This is an opportunity, and that is all I have been looking for."

Gibbons has split time in his native California and his offseason Arizona home waiting to catch on with another organization. In May, he sent a letter to the other 29 baseball organizations asking for an opportunity to play.

In the letter, which first published yesterday, Gibbons said he would donate his entire minor league salary to a charity of the club's choice.

But no one bit.

"I just wanted to make sure the GMs knew if they were interested in me and my past issues, I'd have no problem talking about them," said Gibbons, who is being paid a guaranteed $11.9 million by the Orioles for the 2008 and 2009 seasons. "I got some responses that were positive, but I never received a firm offer."

He said he didn't anticipate the letter would be made public and wanted to "make sure people don't think I am looking for pity. I have lived a blessed life and still am. I am just looking for another opportunity to continue my career."

After hitting .277 with 26 homers and 79 RBIs in 2005, Gibbons signed a four-year, $21.1 million deal before the 2006 season. He struggled with injuries the next two seasons, posting career lows in most offensive categories in 2007.

He said it was unclear whether teams' lack of interest in him had more to do with his 2007 on-field numbers or his inclusion in baseball's Mitchell Report on performance-enhancing drugs and subsequent suspension for hGH usage - which was later lifted.

"I think I had a horrible year last year. I batted .230. I probably deserved to get released. That's probably a big reason," he said. "The mistake I made in the past, I can't take back. I just hoped a team would give a guy a second chance. It hasn't happened yet. I just hope this team is my second chance."

The eight-team Atlantic League is composed primarily of former major and minor leaguers attempting to return to affiliated baseball. The league includes clubs in nearby York and Lancaster, Pa., and Waldorf, Md., but Gibbons chose a franchise not located within the Baltimore fan base.

There are four Atlantic League teams in New York and New Jersey, including the Long Island Ducks, who are best known for signing controversial ex-major leaguers such as John Rocker, Juan Gonzalez and current Ducks outfielder Carl Everett.

According to league guidelines, Atlantic League players normally do not receive more than $3,000 per month. Gibbons said he doesn't know what his salary will be.

"I just miss playing baseball; that's what it comes down to," he said. "Sitting at home, golfing, barbecuing with your [friends] is great. But when you still have that fire in you, you're just not ready to do that on an everyday basis.

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