A package of human growth hormone was delivered to Larry Bigbie's home in Northwest Indiana at Christmastime 2005. Within 10 minutes, federal investigators were at the former Orioles outfielder's door.
Bigbie knew he was busted.
He said he had no choice but to answer questions from the investigators, including Jeff Novitzky, the Internal Revenue Service special agent who made headlines in the Barry Bonds-Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative scandal. Then, for two years after that interrogation, Bigbie waited, mostly in silence, for his testimony to become public.
On Dec. 13, 2007, baseball's Mitchell Report was issued, and Bigbie, along with friend and former New York Mets clubhouse attendant Kirk Radomski, who sent the hGH package to Indiana, were featured as key witnesses.
In two hourlong interviews with The Baltimore Sun over the past week, Bigbie talked about the day he was caught, his reasons for using performance-enhancing drugs, his inclusion in the Mitchell Report and the friendships he has lost because of it.
According to the report, Bigbie implicated former Orioles teammates Jack Cust and Brian Roberts, who were included solely because they allegedly had conversations with Bigbie about steroids. Mitchell investigators also mentioned David Segui, Jason Grimsley, Jay Gibbons and other former Orioles and friends of Bigbie.
Remorse overwhelmed him.
In a shaky, trembling voice, Bigbie called Segui, and he left a message for Gibbons. He didn't have updated contact information for Roberts or Cust, but he asked Gibbons to pass along his apologies to Roberts. He knew his friendships with those former teammates would be damaged forever.
Bigbie wasn't sure exactly what he was sorry for. He felt like he didn't do anything but confirm what investigators already knew. They asked about Roberts and Cust. He believed the feds had the answers before posing the questions.
Now he thinks he understands why they knew so much about him.
'Friend' turns on him
Bigbie is apologetic about using illegal performance-enhancing drugs, which he said he did from 2001 to 2005. But of his mistakes, he most regrets befriending an Orioles fan from Baltimore County, Andrew Michael "Mike" Bogdan.
It was Bogdan, Bigbie believes, who turned him and Radomski over to federal authorities and ultimately brought down major league baseball's infamous steroid culture after Bigbie welcomed him into the tight-knit circle of ballplayers.
"This Bogdan guy set me up, that's the part I can be embarrassed about," Bigbie said.
"That I became a friend of a guy like this, who did this to me."
An unemployed, 43-year-old property manager, Bogdan was first identified as the case's key informant recently by The Smoking Gun Web site. It alleged Bogdan gave information to investigators about Bigbie, Radomski and others in exchange for leniency on an unrelated real estate fraud case.
According to an affidavit filed by Novitzky, the unnamed federal informant in the steroid probe previously pleaded guilty to a felony real estate charge. Also, the affidavit and Radomski's new book, Bases Loaded, put the informant with Radomski at a Mets game Sept. 30, 2005.
Bogdan, who is serving five years' probation for real estate fraud, acknowledges being at Shea Stadium with Radomski that day. But he has twice told The Baltimore Sun that he was never involved in the steroid sting and has never purchased or used steroids. He said allegations to the contrary made by The Smoking Gun and Bigbie are "ridiculous and totally unfounded."
Bogdan says if Bigbie is putting the blame on him, it's because "Larry has a career to protect."
In response, Bigbie, who played in Japan last season and will likely play in Mexico this year, said: "What career do I have to protect? He pretty much wiped my career out with what he did to me. If he points the finger back to me, that's because it's his only defense."
'Seemed like a nice guy'
One thing they agree on is when they met: toward the end of the 2003 season at a celebrity bartending event at Rick's Cafe Americain, a popular players hangout in Canton that has since changed names and ownership.
While Bigbie and former Oriole Marty Cordova were bartending, Bogdan, who had family connections to the place, offered the players his assistance. Later, Bigbie said, he mentioned he was staying in Baltimore that winter and Bogdan told him if he needed anything to give him a call.
"Everybody else went home in the offseason, and I didn't really know a lot of people in the city of Baltimore besides my teammates," Bigbie said.
"He said if you ever need to get into a restaurant, if there's a long wait or something, let me know. And I thought it might be a decent connection. He seemed like a nice guy who knew a lot of people in the city and might be able to help me out."
That winter the two developed a strong friendship, and when the Orioles returned to Baltimore in 2004, Bogdan became a fixture at Camden Yards.
He wore Bigbie's jersey, parked in the players' lot, helped Bigbie with errands and picked him up after road trips.
Bogdan even gained entrance into the team's clubhouse about 10 times after games, as various players would open the side, unguarded door for him.
Some players wondered what Bigbie, a 6-foot-4, 200-pound professional athlete, was doing with a 5-9, 160-pound regular Joe who was a dozen years his elder.
But other players - such as Grimsley, Sidney Ponson and Tim Raines Jr. - embraced Bogdan into their fraternity, Bogdan said.
He said he received cell phone numbers and memorabilia from various pro athletes.
In one of the two framed pictures in the living room of Bogdan's Dundalk home, he is posing with then-New York Yankees stars Derek Jeter, Jason Giambi and Bernie Williams at Rick's. The other photo is of Bogdan with Orioles Hall of Famers Brooks Robinson and Eddie Murray at a local crabhouse.
"I was just a fortunate person who happened to meet some good guys and become friends with guys who just happened to be [baseball] players," Bogdan said.
Bogdan was with Bigbie the day the outfielder met his future wife at a White Marsh bar. They were friendly enough that Bigbie said he knows Bogdan saw him with steroids on several occasions and he's sure steroid tidbits made there way into conversations.
"It's always been my personality. I have always been the trusting kind," Bigbie said. "I think this is the one time it really burned me."
Feeling the pressure
The 21st pick overall in the 1999 draft out of Ball State, Bigbie made it to the majors in 2001, his third year in professional baseball. From then until 2003, he and Roberts lived in the home of Orioles veteran first baseman David Segui, who became like a big brother to them.
Toward the end of 2001, Bigbie said he was feeling the pressure of being a top pick and realized he needed to get stronger and develop more power if he was going to avoid being a bust.
"I just felt being a first-round draft pick and playing in a division like the AL East you had to produce as a hitter," he said. "I didn't want be that guy who just made it to the big leagues."
He sought the advice of Segui, who has since admitted to using steroids for strength and fitness purposes and hGH with a prescription for medical purposes. Segui taught him how to properly inject performance enhancers, but Bigbie said using steroids was his choice and his only - neither Segui nor anyone else pushed him into it.
"I had the opportunity to be an everyday player, and I was trying to make the most of it," said Bigbie, who was a .267 hitter in parts of six major league seasons. "Obviously, it is something I am ashamed of."
Through Segui, Bigbie met Radomski, the Mets clubhouse attendant at the time who became the central figure in the steroid scandal as a distributor to various players.
By 2003, Radomski was supplying Bigbie with performance enhancers and hGH. But Bigbie doesn't believe he was one of the 104 players who failed an anonymous test that year, the one that eventually led to Yankees great Alex Rodriguez's admitting last week to his previous steroid use.
"No one ever told me I had failed, so I don't think so," Bigbie said.
Because he switched to hGH, which is undetectable by urine tests, Bigbie said he has never tested positive for any banned substances.
By 2005, Bigbie said Bogdan asked whether he could help him get steroids and hGH, and Bigbie made a call to Radomski on his buddy's behalf.
Radomski, in his book, admits to sending shipments to a "friend of a friend" who ended up being the federal informant. The Novitzky affidavit confirms this. It was the key break the investigation needed.
Bigbie said he never asked Bogdan why he wanted the drugs.
"A lot of guys made fun of like how he was a little guy and maybe he got tired of people ragging on him. That was what was in my head," Bigbie said. "I was thinking like, 'It's a waste; you're wasting your money.' But I wasn't thinking: 'Why, dude? Are you trying to turn me in or something?' But I wish I was thinking that way."
Caught in the sting by the informant, Radomski began working with the federal government, sending out packages tracked and seized by Novitzky. One went to Grimsley, another to Bigbie.
"I knew they had me because the package came to my door and they followed the package in," he said. "It wasn't 10 minutes later that they came in."
Novitzky told Bigbie he needed to cooperate, and he did.
"They were asking me things that I had no idea how they got the answers to, and what are you going to say?" Bigbie said. "They didn't come in here to try and put the finger on me. They were coming here just trying to find out that what they got from this guy was true."
Bigbie acknowledged that he was scared, that it was a "different type of pressure" than he had ever felt in a baseball game. At the same time, he said the investigators were professional, that Novitzky was "a real nice guy."
Only one other time in the next two years did Bigbie tell his full story - in 2007 to the Mitchell investigators. When the report came out at the end of that year, Bigbie was floored.
He couldn't understand why so much was pinned on him. He had no idea what to say to people such as Roberts and Cust.
"It was never my intention for it to sound like I rolled over on them or I willingly gave up information," he said. "It was a situation where obviously they had gathered information from somebody else ... and it was a matter of whether I was going to lie or confirm these answers."
Cust denied allegations of steroid use, but Roberts admitted to using the drugs once in 2003 and offered a public apology.
Bigbie said he hasn't spoken to either player since the report came out - but he hopes one day that changes.
"I was drafted with Brian. We played together from Day One. To lose a friendship with someone like that, it's not a good feeling," Bigbie said. "I don't want them to have bitter feelings toward me even if I never see them again. I just want to clear that air, and hopefully they can understand what really happened and forgive me for what happened."
Contacted by phone, Roberts said he holds no ill will toward Bigbie.
"It's not Larry's fault. I don't blame Larry for my situation. I don't want to relive this whole thing all over again, but I made a bad choice. I've dealt with it, and I've moved forward." Roberts said. "I don't hate Larry. How can I blame somebody else for something I did? I feel bad for Larry for what he's gone through, because we were good friends."
As for his relationship with Bogdan, Bigbie said it had cooled by 2006. It's definitely over now.
So, likely, is Bigbie's major league career. He'll play in Mexico to start the season and hopes to get back to Japan at some point this year. He's also looking ahead to the rest of his life with his wife and 2-year-old daughter.
He's hoping to complete his degree online - he's about one year short - and wants to teach physical education and coach at an Indiana high school. His dream, he said, laughing, is to coach football.
He understands his baseball legacy will forever be defined not by what he did on the field, but what he did off it. He was one of those guys with so much promise who was swallowed up by the sport's drug scandal.
"I'm not going to sit here and have this black cloud over my head for the rest of my life," he said. "I met a lot of great people, and my life is going to go on. I pulled a lot of good things out of baseball, but obviously I am not proud of what happened."
Baltimore Sun reporter Jeff Zrebiec contributed to this article.