Sunday, May 27, 2018
Tampa Bay Rays

Former Ray Aubrey Huff: 'I was an absolute scumbag'

SAN FRANCISCO — Sitting at a corner table last month, with an expansive view of the city he once thrilled, Aubrey Huff was in a pretty good mood for someone attending his own funeral.

Huff was there to raise a glass (of water) to the demise of his alter ego. He was there to bury the side of himself Giants fans once adored.

"Yeah, he's dead. And I'm glad," Huff said that day. "Because 'Huff Daddy' was just an insecure, scared (witless) little kid trying to be somebody he's not."

Huff Daddy may be dead.

But the real Aubrey Huff isn't exactly resting in peace.

The thong-waving first baseman from the 2010 World Series team spent much of last Sunday angering his once loyal fan base. He took to Twitter to mock anti-Trump protesters, then handled the ensuing debate by boasting about his wealth and lifestyle. He did not skimp on the personal insults.

Huff, 40, who spent his first 61/2 seasons with the Rays, has since apologized — for his behavior, not his politics — but that did little to quell the backlash.

By the time his self-published Baseball Junkie, was released on amazon.com on Wednesday, it was already savaged by one-star reviews from people who were unlikely to have read it yet. Wrote one critic, three days before the book was released: "If you want to read a story about a millionaire who feels sorry for himself while having no empathy for other people, this is for you. Otherwise, pass on this self-aggrandizing story of a mediocre player who made millions but can't cope with life."

Welcome to the literary set, Mr. Huff.

Over the course of two interviews, one before the Twitter barrage and one after, Huff made it clear that he understands why people dislike him.

After all, he spent much of his life doing the same thing.

Huff is the villain of his own autobiography. By his own blunt account, he spent his Giants career, from 2010-12, as a pill-popping, lie-spinning, egomaniac who disrespected his wife and endangered his kids. "I was an absolute scumbag for the most of my life," he writes in the introduction. And over the course of 250 pages he establishes that case beyond a reasonable doubt.

He took Adderall before games and 12-15 beers afterward so he could pass out asleep. The long list of transgressions documented in Baseball Junkie include, but are not limited to, reckless gambling binges, driving drunk, faked prescriptions and a dalliance with a pair of Hooters waitresses that nearly cost him his marriage.

"I would go to these casinos in Tampa, nightly, by myself," Huff says over lunch. "I'd leave my family at home, my newborn babies, my wife, and I'd be out gambling 'til 4 or 5 in the morning, pissing away tens of thousands of dollars, high as a kite."

As a result, Huff has been through tougher times than a misguided evening on Twitter. For example, there was the time in 2014 when he was sobbing at the bottom of his closet and holding a .357 Magnum to his temple.

"I've got the hammer back and …" Huff said over lunch, his voice trailing off. "I don't think I was going to do it. But I just wanted to look at myself in the mirror.

"I remember what I looked like. I had the shaved head. Goatee. The wife-beater was on. I had the tats all over me, right? And I'm thinking, 'My gosh, you sure look tough, you (sissy).'

"That's just the weird place I was in life. I knew I was in trouble then. I just really started freaking out. … I'm thinking, 'Gosh, man, am I going to kill myself?'"

Huff and co-author Stephen Cassar collaborated on this unsettling memoir in hopes of rescuing others from his path of anxiety, depression, addiction and thoughts of suicide. It's a small-scale book, and the writing is raw, but Huff figured it might find a niche audience as a comeback story.

Huff said his ideal reader is a young ballplayer debating whether or not to take that first dose of illicit Adderrall. "He has a pill in his hand and he thinks about Huffy's book and says, 'Damn, I'm not sure I want to do this,'" he said.

But then … Twitter happened. And now Huff's book — subtitled The Rise, Fall, and Redemption of a World Series Champion — is having trouble persuading people about the "redemption" part.

In light of the mounting contradictions, more than one fan has wondered if the book now belongs in the fiction section.

In the book: "I am not writing this book for fame or money. I think I have already shared that those two things mean absolutely jack squat to me."

On Twitter: "Well, I'm Rich, retired at 36, big house, hot wife, 2 WS rings. I'll be a dumbass all day! How's smart working 4 u?"

By the morning after his social media dust-up, Huff was already cringing at what he'd done.

"I don't want the message that's in the book to reflect what I did (on Twitter), because that's not who I am now," he said.

Huff famously capped the San Francisco's first World Series parade by standing on the steps of City Hall, reaching into his pants and fishing out his red, rhinestone-encrusted underwear. The mere sight of the fabled "Rally Thong" sent hundreds of thousands of fans into delirium.

Huff says now that within a day of that raucous celebration, he woke up and asked his wife, "Why do I feel so unhappy?"

The book is a search for an answer to that question. It's all here: a nervous breakdown, a crumbling marriage, a stint at a rehabilitation center.

Huff, by his account, was a shy mama's boy growing up in Abilene, Texas. His father was murdered under mysterious circumstances in 1983, when Aubrey was 6. At the time, the kid barely flinched. Recalling his reaction to his mom telling him that his father had been killed, Huff writes: "I went back to watching The Transformers on television. I remember thinking, 'He was never here anyway.' Even as a boy, I knew it was very strange that I did not shed single tear that night."

But that unresolved grief had consequences. Huff wound up with a lifetime of confusion about what it meant to be a father and a man.

Huff says he ultimately saved himself by getting off Adderall, rediscovering his spirituality and, at last, dealing with his father's murder. It wasn't until writing this book that he finally read a newspaper accounts detailing the fatal shooting.

"I read in detail this stuff and I'm crying my face off, just losing it," Huff said at lunch.

Now, he's trying to make rounds with the media, as well as speaking before schools and church groups.

But Huff's flurry of insults on Twitter give him an extra hurdle to clear when it comes to establishing his credibility. His recovery, like all recovery, is a work in progress.

"There are times when I'm having a bad day, like everybody does, and I think, 'Man, what would it be like to be on Adderall right now?'" Huff said. "Of course that goes through your mind. But I know that I'll never reach for one. I know what it's cost me now."

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