Report: Gooden scheduled to be released from prison

Updated: November 7, 2006, 7:21 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Former baseball star Dwight Gooden is set to be released from prison Thursday after finishing a sentence for violating his probation by using cocaine.

"Yes, I do think Dwight possesses the inner strength to turn his life around. We all do.The question is, has Dwight found that inner strength within himself? Only Dwight has the answer to that question."
--George Steinbrenner

"He's eager to get home and see his family again," Gooden's Tampa attorney, Peter Hobson, told the Tampa Tribune.

With gain time and credit for 93 days already served in the Hillsborough County Jail and in a secure drug treatment facility, his total prison time will be about seven months. He had been sentenced to a year and a day.

The Department of Corrections refused to give a time for when Gooden would be released from Gainesville Correctional Institution, DOC spokeswoman Gretl Plessinger said. Gooden has had numerous legal problems, most related to drug problems.

Last April, Gooden chose to accept prison time instead of an offer of probation. If he had violated probation, he would faced the prospect of five years in prison.

The 41-year-old was serving three years' probation for speeding away from police during a drunken driving traffic stop last year when he failed a drug test and acknowledged to a probation officer that he had used cocaine.

"He'll have a challenge just adjusting again to home life," New York Yankees intervention coordinator Ron Dock told the Tribune. "He has been away from his home and friends for the first time like this. Now he'll be able to get up when he wants, sleep when he wants, eat when he wants.

"But his only goal should be to stay clean. I'd like to suggest to him that he get back up on the horse right away. He doesn't need to hide out and go, 'Oh poor me, I'm so ashamed.' He doesn't have anything to be ashamed of. I'd tell him to walk proud with your head high," Dock told the Tribune.

Gooden was the 1984 NL Rookie of the Year and 1985 NL Cy Young Award winner while with the New York Mets. He went 194-112 with a 3.51 ERA before retiring in 2001. He also pitched for the New York Yankees, Cleveland Indians, Houston Astros and Tampa Bay Devil Rays.

In 1994, while with the Mets, Gooden was suspended for 60 days for testing positive for cocaine. He tested positive for cocaine again while on suspension and was sidelined for the 1995 season.

Another Mets and Yankees star, Darryl Strawberry, was released from the same prison on April 8, 2003, after serving 11 months of an 18-month prison sentence for violating probation on cocaine possession charges.

According to the Tribune, Gooden will likely meet with Yankees owner George Steinbrenner about a coaching job. Gooden previously coached at the Yankees' minor-league complex in Tampa.

"At this time I cannot say whether I would consider rehiring Dwight," Steinbrenner told the Tribune in an e-mail. "I'm not aware of his future goals and objectives. That said, before any rehiring can be discussed and/or determined, Dwight and I would need to have a long and serious conversation on multiple topics.

"Yes, I do think Dwight possesses the inner strength to turn his life around. We all do," Steinbrenner said in the e-mail. "The question is, has Dwight found that inner strength within himself? Only Dwight has the answer to that question."

Steinbrenner told the Tribune that he will continue to offer support once Gooden leaves prison. Dock also said he will support Gooden.

"I've been there; I understand," Dock told the newspaper. "I celebrated 14 years of recovery, so I know it can be done. I just love the hell out of Dwight, and I'm going to help him however he needs.

"He has to understand the same thing I do -- the day I think I'm cured, I'm dead. You have to stay vigilant. Dwight has to stay vigilant. There's no other way," Dock said.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.