As San Francisco Giants superstar Barry Bonds inches his way closer to the all-time home run record, at least two families affected by steroid use are watching with a bit of displeasure and a bit of hope.
The record is considered by many to be the greatest in all of sports. When Bonds hits No. 756 he will surpass Hank Aaron's 755 home runs. But unlike the day Aaron set the record, Bonds' achievement will be shrouded in controversy over his alleged steroid use.
Bonds has never been charged, though federal investigators and Major League Baseball continue investigating claims that he used performance-enhancing drugs for years. Because of these allegations, some inside baseball don't think Bonds should get many of the accolades that no doubt will fall upon the slugger when he breaks the historic record.
Two families are watching the home run race with intent interest. They aren't so much concerned with the record itself but with the impact Bonds' achievement might have on young men who yearn to play ball.
This is a story about two young men. They lived hundreds of miles apart but both were willing to do anything to play in the Major Leagues even if it meant taking steroids.
Growing up in Sonoma County, Calif., about 50 miles north of San Francisco, Rob Garibaldi tried to emulate Bonds. He was built like Bonds was in his early years. Garibaldi analyzed Bonds' swing hoping to one day have the same style and power.
"With all of Barry Bonds' accomplishments, Rob saw that he could be a player like him," Garibaldi's mother, Denise Garibaldi, told ABC News. "Barry was a hometown boy when Rob was growing up."
Garibaldi played on his high school team and went on to join the Trojans at the University of Southern California. Throughout his time in school Major League scouts told Garibaldi he had great potential but that he was too small and needed to find a way to grow muscle.
Garibaldi took dietary supplements, but they had little impact on his muscle mass. The baseball scouts probably never meant for Garibaldi to turn to steroids to get stronger. But as he would later tell his family, he was willing to do anything to be just like Bonds.
"He took his high school graduation gift money and went to Tijuana with a friend and within a one hour time had an appointment with a doctor, a prescription, filled the prescription and was back across the border," said Denise Garibaldi.
His family said it didn't take long for them to notice something was wrong. Steroids can create a condition dubbed "roid rage" that causes users to become mentally unstable. Garibaldi had become depressed and irritable to the point where he left USC and entered psychiatric treatment in Northern California. His mood swings were extreme. He had set out to make himself more attractive to Major League scouts but his mental state actually hurt any future he would have had in sports.
While in the psychiatric treatment center, Garibaldi admitted to doctors that he had been using performance-enhancing drugs. Denise remembers the day the Garibaldi family confronted her son about his steroid abuse.
"Rob said, 'I don't care what the results of the steroids have done to me, this is something I need to do, this is something ballplayers do and I will continue to do this as long as it makes me powerful enough to play in the Major Leagues,'" she said.
Eight days after that confrontation, Garibaldi stole a gun from a Petaluma, Calif., shooting range and killed himself.
In Plano, Texas, outside Dallas, the Hooton family has a very similar story. High school junior Taylor Hooton wanted to play Major League ball so badly that he too turned to Mexican steroids. He grew up watching Major League players and was determined he had to be just as big and strong. During his junior year as a pitcher, Taylor recorded one save for his high school team and was preparing to be a starter for his senior year.
"Out of the 15 boys that were on that team, close to half, if not half, were already doing steroids, so Taylor didn't have to look far to find out what he needed to do," said Don Hooton in an interview with ABC News.
Like Garibaldi, soon after Taylor began taking steroids he became severely depressed. He never made it to his senior year. A month after he turned 17 years old, Taylor killed himself.
The Garibaldi and Hooton families have joined forces to combat steroid use among high school athletes. Both have pushed for laws that force high school players to get tested for performance-enhancing drugs. The efforts have been successful in Texas, Florida and New Jersey so far. Those three states have passed laws that mandate the random testing of high school players for steroids.
As Bonds gets closer to breaking the home run record, the two families are calling on him and all Major League players who have allegedly used steroids to come clean. Neither family blames Bonds or any players for the deaths, but they say professional athletes could save lives if they discouraged steroid use.
"I truly believe that all of the professional players were caught up in something that was bigger than themselves," said Denise Garibaldi. "In their desire to compete and to play at the height of their ability that steroids were available, were more or less sanctioned by everyone."
So far neither family has had any contact with Bonds.