Ex-major leaguer Aikens released after nearly 14 years

Updated: June 4, 2008, 6:37 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

Former major league player Willie Mays Aikens was released from federal prison in Jesup, Ga., early Wednesday morning after spending nearly 14 years behind bars.

[+] EnlargeWillie Mays Aikens
Focus on Sport/Getty ImagesWillie Mays Aikens, who helped lead the Royals to the 1980 World Series, was released from federal prison on Wednesday after serving nearly 14 years.
Aikens, whose case was often cited in the effort to overturn federal sentencing guidelines, was released at 6:55 a.m. ET. He was sentenced in 1994 to more than 20 years for crack cocaine distribution, bribery and gun charges under the mandatory sentencing guidelines then in place.

"It hasn't really sunk in yet," he told ESPN.com. "I feel excited and blessed. It went by quick. I'm coming back to a new world."

Aikens, who played eight big league seasons at first base and DH with the Los Angeles Angels, Kansas City Royals and Toronto Blue Jays, said he hopes to have a career in baseball, and wants to become a major league scout.

In March 1994, Aikens was arrested in Kansas City and charged with selling crack cocaine to an undercover police officer. He was sentenced later that year to the maximum sentence of 15 years, eight months and an additional five years because he allegedly had a loaded gun in the room where the drugs were sold.

When Aikens was sentenced, the guidelines for sentences on crack cocaine convictions were much stricter than those for powdered cocaine because it was thought that crack defendants were more violent. Last year, the guidelines were deemed cruel and unusual.

Three months ago, Congress approved new guidelines and made them retroactive -- making Aikens one of about 20,000 inmates eligible for early release.

ESPN producer Malinda Adams contributed to this report.