When healthy, Kyle Blanks could crush a baseball. In the final 32 games of 2009, his rookie season with the San Diego Padres, playing in a home field so cavernous it was known as Petco National Park, Blanks hit 10 home runs.
But he never hit that many home runs in a season again, his career deteriorated by a procession of injuries and surgeries to his elbow, leg and shoulder, and procedures on both feet. In 2017, as he finished his professional career in the minor leagues, the pain was so persistent that Blanks said he got relief from alcohol: a half-bottle of rum some days, a whole bottle on others.
It made no sense to him that he could use marijuana to ease his discomfort as a major leaguer because there was no testing, but not in the minors, where there was. And on one of his most agonizing days, he said, the discomfort in his heel was so excruciating that he popped an opioid so he could finish a game.