The Houston Astros' Jon Singleton, among the top first-base prospects in baseball, is opening up publicly for the first time about his battle with marijuana addiction and his monthlong stay at a rehabilitation center.
"At this point, it's pretty evident to me that I'm a drug addict," Singleton told The Associated Press over breakfast on a recent day near the Astros' camp. "I don't openly tell everyone that, but it's pretty apparent to myself."
"I know that I enjoy smoking weed, I enjoy being high, and I can't block that out of my mind that I enjoy that," he said. "So I have to work against that."
Hours after the AP published its story on Singleton, the Astros released a statement and commended the player.
"We applaud Jon for the courage he has shown in tackling this issue head-on," the team said. "He has displayed a great deal of maturity and commitment over the past year and has the full support of the Astros organization. He is on the right track for his baseball career and, more importantly, for his life. We are very proud of Jon."
Singleton had avoided discussing the subject for more than a year. But on that recent morning, he shared his story with candor and ease, never bristling at the increasingly prying questions. The 6-foot-2, 235-pound native of Harbor City, Calif., sat up straight in a small booth, adjusted the baseball cap he was wearing backward and filled in the details of his private struggle.
The 22-year-old said he's stopped using marijuana and is better now. He is determined to rebound from a season that was all but lost because of his addiction and to make his major league debut.
General manager Jeff Luhnow said Singleton could start the season with the Astros, but it's too early to know. Singleton, a dynamic left-handed hitter with power and composure who can use the entire field, has been playing in big league spring training games and went 0-for-2 on Monday in a 4-0 win over Miami.
"He's still young and still learning about baseball and about life," Luhnow said.
Singleton, acquired by Houston from the Phillies in the 2011 trade for Hunter Pence, was suspended for the first 50 games of last season for a second failed drug test. At the time, it was characterized as simply a mistake or "a lapse in judgment," as his statement said.
That wasn't the full story.
His first positive test came in June 2012, and he said he quit using marijuana for the rest of that season, his first in Double-A. He went on to hit .284 with 21 homers and 79 RBIs.
At season's end, he went to the Arizona Fall League and quickly fell back into old habits.
He knew his situation was dire when he failed a second test in December 2012, but he said he continued to get high every day.
The 50-game suspension came a month later, and he was summoned to Houston to meet with Astros manager Bo Porter and to see a therapist, who evaluated him for addiction. Singleton was then admitted for a monthlong stay at an inpatient rehabilitation center.
"I knew I had a problem," he said. "Even after I failed the second drug test, I couldn't stop smoking weed. It was really bad. Me going there was definitely the best move."
He didn't feel that way when he first entered. Fearing the unknown, he said, he didn't sleep for three days straight.