“The guy surfaces in Texas (where Gonzalez signed in 2002), and the RSA notices the guy, notifies MLB security, and we get in touch with the club and make sure the guy has absolutely no access to the clubhouse or field and is kept away from players,” Manfred says. “He goes underground again.
“At some point, in either ’02 or ’03, the RSA with the Anaheim team actually picks the guy out in the stands. We do the same drill with the Anaheim guy: no clubhouse, no access.” Manfred says he does not know whether Presinal had been in either clubhouse.
Presinal, who says he is in failing health, never acted like a man who was operating underground. Just this past spring he appeared with the Dominican team during the spring’s World Baseball Classic, although MLB did not name him as an official trainer and strength coach.
“I became aware of that after the fact,” Manfred says. “I want to be clear about that: we appointed two trainers per team, neither of whom was Mr. Presinal.”
Mets third base coach Manny Acta, the manager for the Dominican WBC team, says he had no idea Presinal was unwelcome. “All I can tell you is he was our strength and conditioning guy and he did a great job,” Acta says. “He’s a motivator with a great attitude. A lot of the players asked for him.”
Angels vice president for communications Tim Mead says he wasn’t aware of the 2001 incident, but says the Angels were aware Presinal was not allowed in restricted areas. He also says the club was fairly comfortable with Presinal’s outside work with its players because officials were told of MLB’s findings that Presinal had a good reputation in the Dominican and had not been involved in other incidents.
“Our training staff and our medical staff have complete control of the players at the ballpark and their program, as much as they can control,” Mead says. “Bartolo Colon works very closely with Angel, but we’ve had no issues whatsoever with him.”
Presinal no longer associates with Juan Gonzalez but he remains a big presence in Bartolo Colon’s life. He and Colon were comfortable enough to discuss their relationship with the Los Angeles Times just last year, and allowed their photo to be taken together at Colon’s home. Colon’s agent, Mitch Frankel, says he was not aware of the 2001 incident. He asked that questions for Colon be sent to him in an E-mail, and as of press time he had not responded.
According to that July 2005 Times article, Colon hired Presinal in 2003 and rented an apartment for him near Anaheim. Much as Gonzalez did, Colon flew the trainer from city to city, covering Presinal’s air fare and putting him up in hotels.
Presinal was also confident about the success of Colon’s workouts in that 2005 article, as they worked to overcome the pitcher’s disabling back problems.
“When he gets to 95%, I’m telling you right now,” Presinal told the paper, “he’s going to get the Cy Young.” Colon, of course, went on to win the Cy Young award.
Two of the Angels trainers, Adam Nevala and Armando Rivas, traveled to the Dominican to see Colon and other players just after the 2005 season ended, and reportedly consulted with Presinal while they were there.
Manfred says he was not aware that Angels personnel had had such direct contact with Presinal, and would not say whether he was concerned about it. “I can’t comment on the Angels thing because frankly I’m not aware of how pervasive the involvement is,” he says.
Several other players have been openly associated with Presinal, including then-Angels outfielder Jose Guillen in 2004 and pitchers Kelvim Escobar and Ervin Santana last winter.
Those relationships are Presinal’s lifeblood. He breaks down in tears twice during recent interviews, saying a story about the incident could end his 30-year career.
But he says he will rely on his reputation in the Dominican to sustain him, and that he has never advocated drug use.
“If you have time,” he says in Spanish, “come in November and December and you can see all of these people who train under me. Young athletes. I work with them so they can become superstars. You can see how hard these players work. It’s all clean work.
“And I always tell these kids that if they have a medical problem, to be responsible. Don’t just talk to any doctor. Make sure you be careful. Don’t get mixed up with any steroids or other stuff.”
As for Gonzalez, he says their relationship ended long ago.
“I don’t have much contact with him anymore. I don’t know what happened with him,” Presinal says. “I was there when he was winning two MVPs. I was there helping him mentally, physically. I was by his side,” he says.
“People change. Sometime players look for new people to work with or change. His mind went elsewhere. I didn’t like that way and I said, ‘It’s better you go your own way. And I’ll take my own way.'”
– Additional reporting by Sam Borden, Adam Rubin and Rodolfo Quebleen
Graphic: NO ANGELS.
A list of Angel (Nao) Presinal clients is who’s who of the game’s greats. Here’s a look:
Three-time Cy Young winner, Eight-time All-Star
ALCS MVP, three-time All-Star
2004 AL MVP
2005 A.L. Cy Young winner
2002 AL MVP
2004 NL Home run leader, MVP runner-up
Four-time All-Star, 1989 AL MVP runner-up
1995 Rolaids Relief award winner, two-time All-Star
1992 All-Star, 1996 AL ERA leader
Troubled star has averaged 25 homers over past three seasons.
Relieved starter Colon in second inning of Game 5 of 2005 division series to beat Yanks and lead Angels into ALCS.