Former MLB pitcher Watson says steroid users deserve HOF nods

By Nicholas Diunte

For Queens native Allen Watson, the 2015 Baseball Hall of Fame class should have included two of his former teammates, Barry Bonds and Mike Piazza.

“Two unbelievable players,” Watson said during an interview at a recent baseball clinic at Artistic Stitch in Glendale. “Barry Bonds was the best player I’ve ever seen, and Piazza was a tremendous hitter. They both should be in the Hall of Fame.”

Despite both candidates’ resumes being clouded by allegations of steroid use, and Watson’s own alleged steroid use in an affidavit by former teammate Jason Grimsley (which he vehemently denied), Watson said that none of the players from the steroid era should be excluded from the Hall of Fame because of the drug’s ubiquity during that time. Both Piazza and Bonds were not voted in this year.

“Steroids were around for everybody back then,” he said, “so they should all be there, not just one guy. If one person was doing it, all right, but everyone was doing it, so they should be in there.”

Watson starred locally at Christ the King High School in Middle Village and earned All-American honors at New York Tech. He played for six different teams in his eight-year big league career. Two of those stops providing Watson the opportunity to watch Bonds operate up close and personal with the Giants in 1996 and Piazza with the Mets in 1999.

While Bonds did not tag Watson for one of his 762 home runs, Piazza hit an epic blast off of him in St. Louis in 1995 that looked like it was shot out of a cannon. Watson marveled not only at the speed at which Piazza’s home run traveled, but the fact that shortstop Ozzie Smith almost had a chance to catch the ball.

“One time Mike Piazza hit a line drive and then [Ozzie Smith] leaped to get it — it went out of the stadium,” he said. “[Smith] almost caught it and it went out; that’s how hard Mike hit the ball.”

Now, the 44-year-old Watson is no longer focused on crafting strategies to thwart some of baseball’s toughest hitters, he is now trying to apply the lessons from his Hall of Fame manager Joe Torre towards developing young talent.

“He was like a father figure — a real calm demeanor,” he said. “He showed me a lot, especially now teaching kids, that every kid has a different personality. He taught me how to work with every kid because they’re all different.”

At the clinic, Watson’s simplistic approach of short instructional cues was well received by the attendees. His relaxed demeanor put the aspiring ballplayers in a comfortable position to learn and respond.

Among the protégés at the clinic included his son, Allen Jr., who is 7 years old with a sweet swing poised to follow in his father’s athletic path. Watson Sr.’s passion comes from watching this next generation of baseball players develop.

“It’s good to give back to the community where I grew up,” he said. “I love working with the little kids. I coach my son’s team. It’s really special to see him grow.”