Choo addresses teammates on DUI charge
Outfielder says he doesn't want to become distraction
OAKLAND -- Shin-Soo Choo called for his Indians teammates to gather around him on the field at Oakland Coliseum prior to Tuesday's game against the A's. As they stood and listened, Choo expressed his desire not to become a distraction.
Choo was arrested early Monday morning in the Cleveland suburb of Sheffield Lake on charges of driving under the influence. The right fielder was in uniform and in the lineup on Tuesday, but wanted to make sure he issued an apology before taking the field for the Tribe.
" I want to apologize to my family and my teammates," Choo told reporters, "and to the fans and to the Indians organization. I regret that this happened."
Choo is the second player for the Indians, and the sixth player in the Majors, to be arrested on charges stemming from a DUI this year. Shortly before the start of Spring Training, Cleveland outfielder Austin Kearns was arrested on a similar charge on Feb. 12 near his home in Kentucky.
Choo has a hearing scheduled for 5 p.m. ET on Thursday at the Sheffield Lake Mayor's Court. Kearns had a hearing slated for Tuesday at the Jessamine (Ky.) District Court. Both players will be represented by attorneys in order to remain with the team.
Indians manager Manny Acta said on Tuesday that he does not believe the arrests of Choo and Kearns mean the ballclub needs to revisit its internal policies. Acta also did not feel Major League Baseball necessarily needed to step in to start dishing out punishment for events that occur away from the ballpark.
"It's a universal issue," Acta said. "We're talking today about this because it's a player -- a Major League player from the Cleveland Indians. I'm sure that about 100 other people have those issues, but you guys don't care about them, or you don't have anything interesting to write about them."
"I think you should run your life," the manager later added. "I don't think that baseball should have to be in every hometown where every guy lives. It's society's issue. Everybody needs to be responsible for their own acts."
In 2007, alcohol played a role in the death of St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Josh Hancock, who was killed in a car accident. After Hancock's passing, many Major League teams, including the Indians, altered their clubhouse policy to limit alcoholic beverages.
"We're just going to have to address it on an individual basis," Acta said. "We do a very good job in our clubhouse. Once that stuff went down in St. Louis they modified the rules in our clubhouse. It's nothing out of the ordinary. Most of the stuff usually doesn't happen because of what goes on in the clubhouse."
Both Acta and general manager Chris Antonetti met with Choo about his arrest.
"We are aware of the incident with Shin-Soo Choo and have spoken to him about it," Antonetti said in a statement. "The Indians organization takes these issues very seriously, and we are disappointed in the matter. We will continue to monitor the situation and we will not have any further comment at this time."
Prior to meeting with reporters in Oakland, Choo also issued a formal statement.
"I sincerely apologize to my family, teammates, fans and the Indians organization for the attention stemming from this matter," Choo said. "However, I am hopeful that this incident will not be a distraction to the Indians organization while we remain focused on continuing to play winning baseball.
"Since this is a legal matter, I look forward to it being resolved within the court system as soon as possible."
When he met with the media in person, Choo declined to answer questions about the specific circumstances surrounding his arrest.
According to the official police report, a breathalyzer test performed at the Sheffield Lake station determined Choo's blood-alcohol level to be .201 -- more than double Ohio's legal limit of .08. Prior to being transported to the police station, Choo also failed a handful of field sobriety tests.
Choo first came into contact with police at 2:25 a.m., according to the report. Initially, the outfielder asked an officer to help him find his way to Avon Lake, Ohio. The officer did not observe the smell of alcohol on Choo at first and agreed to follow the outfielder to make sure he reached his home.
At one point, Choo pulled off to the side of a road and turned on his hazard lights. He then indicated to an officer that the GPS in his white 2007 Cadillac SUV was not working properly. The officer again informed the outfielder that he would follow him home, according to the report.
While the officer followed in a cruiser, he witnessed Choo driving over the road's double yellow line on two separate occasions. He also veered into a bike lane on the opposite side of the road. Choo was then pulled over a second time, at which point the officer noticed his eyes were bloodshot and he smelled of alcohol.
Choo was then asked to perform a number of sobriety tests. When he struggled to follow the officer's instructions, Choo was arrested and taken to the Sheffield Lake station. When he was later led out of the station, Choo smashed his personal camera in the parking lot, according to the report.
Officers also noticed minor damage to the front bumper and driver's side door on Choo's vehicle. Choo was released without bond and driven home.
Choo, 28, is batting .250 with four home runs and 15 RBIs through 27 games this season for the American League Central-leading Indians. Choo -- arguably the Indians' best player -- said he does not believe the arrest will have a negative affect on his performance.
No, this happened outside the team," Choo said. "I'll play here the same. I'll have the same personality -- be the same person in the clubhouse. I won't change. I'll play as hard as I can and try for winning baseball."
Acta appreciated that Choo took the time to address the issue with his teammates.
"He's human just like every one of us," Acta said. "He made a mistake. We all make mistakes. The main thing is learning from it. He's very remorseful. He's a guy that I'm not going to look at any differently because of that. He's a great kid -- very high character. We're moving on.
"[His teammates] know what he's all about. He made a mistake and every one of those knows that any one of us at any given moment can slip up and make a msitake. They're very supportive. We do have a great clubhouse. They love the guy and I don't think he's going to have any issues with his teammates."
Mainly, Choo does not want any of this to become a distraction.
"I hope not," he said.