Max St. Pierre only hopes Miguel Cabrera’s troubles end as well as his

Revue de presse

Tom Gage / The Detroit News, February 20, 2011

Maxime St-Pierre

Lakeland, Fla.— He sits, without a hovering crowd, at the opposite end of the clubhouse from Miguel Cabrera’s unused locker.

His view of the chair that awaits the Tigers' slugging star is blocked. But he doesn't have to see it to relate to why it's empty.

Max St. Pierre understands more than most do. The demons that nearly destroyed him as a person and player sprang from the same troubled source as those that still haunt Cabrera.

A French-Canadian catcher who finally made it to the majors last year with the Tigers after 14 seasons in the minors — realizing a dream in doing so — St. Pierre didn't just drink too much.

"I drank all the time," he said when discussing his troubles three years ago.

We don't know that Cabrera drinks all the time. We don't know that at all. We can hope and even rely on the probability that he doesn't.

Photo : Tigers non-roster catcher Max St. Pierre warms up with a little long-ball catch during spring training workouts in Lakeland. (John T. Greilick / The Detroit News)

But to alter a line from the movie "A League of Their Own," he drinks enough to know he drinks too much.

St. Pierre wanted no part of being asked to make Cabrera comparisons.

"Please," he said. "I can't."

What he meant was quickly understood: Comparisons aren't fair. No two stories are the same.

St. Pierre feels it's not his place to comment on the tribulations of another player — and whether we agree or disagree with that stance, we have to respect it.

Yet St. Pierre has always had a story to tell, whether it was three years ago when he could finally say he had confronted and fended off his enemy . . .

Or now, when we are reminded that the Tiger in camp who can speak with the most authority on the subject of evil alcoholic hurdles is this rescued soul at the other end of the clubhouse.

"The main thing for me," St. Pierre said, "was to understand my disease — then to get help, but to understand it first in terms of what I am, what I'm doing, the effect of it on other people.

"That's what I called it, my disease."

It was a disease, and is a disease, always beckoning its victims to cross that line.

St. Pierre's public admissions were honest, yet stunning in 2008.

"I drank all night, every day of the season," he said of earlier years in the minors.

As a young punk, St. Pierre had been a cheater in school while growing up. He also was a brawler, and eventually became a drunk.

"People were afraid of me," he said about his fights on the streets of Quebec."

Of cheating, he said, "It was nothing for someone else to do my homework."

Every fiber of St. Pierre resisted authority, even to the extent that when he finally ascended to Toledo in 2006 for a full year at Triple A, he would say to himself about manager Larry Parrish, "What the hell do you know?"

Now the hitting coach for the Atlanta Braves , but openly frustrated that year with St. Pierre, Parrish told The Detroit News in 2008, "His problem was getting in the way of his performance. He was setting fire to his career.

"But it wasn't just baseball he was throwing away. He was going down that road you don't want to go down."

There were reasons why St. Pierre, who will be 31 in April, was primed to become a victim of excess. Signed at 17, he initially felt alone in professional baseball.

Growing up speaking French, "I learned English from watching 'Seinfeld,'" he said. "But people thought I was dumb because of my accent."

At 21, with the bar scene changing his life, "I didn't go the right route," he said.

Indeed, he didn't. But when it's the fun route, a kid isn't always aware it's the wrong route.

"When I drank," St. Pierre said, "it became easier for me to talk to people, to talk to girls. Suddenly, they liked my accent; they weren't laughing at me anymore.

"But I would drink and show up at the field not remembering what I learned the previous day. I was more pumped about getting done with the game and going out.

"When I had a day off, I'd start drinking in the afternoon and get lit all day. When I was at Toledo, that's when I was really bad — at my worst.

"I started not caring as much. My priority was drinking instead of wanting to be a baseball player. I wasn't going the right way and people finally found out."

He hit rock bottom when he flunked out of baseball for a while after the 2007 season.

"It's when I realized I had a problem, when I knew I had to stop," said St. Pierre, who came clean in 2008 about his problem and subsequent recovery. "I was hurting the people who loved me. Me and my big attitude, it had always been about me.

"My fiancée (now wife) told me that in seven years she'd never really seen me sober. But I chose change. I see life differently now, I see people differently. I talk to people differently.

"People aren't out to get you. People can help you."

Many caring people helped St. Pierre — to the extent that with a young daughter and son now, he declares these times to be "the happiest of my life," whether he gets another major league hit or not.

No comparisons, though: Cabrera's story and St. Pierre's might be no more similar than their common affliction.

But perhaps, as individuals, they'll share a common triumph.

"I was afraid of losing all the people who love me," St. Pierre said.

Happy ending.

He didn't.

Revue de presse publiée par Jacques Lanciault.

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