The Ultimate Groupie

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The Ultimate Groupie
I've only been married once. This doesn't mean I'm not married anymore. I got married on January 10, 1993 and remain wedded via holy matrimony to my spousal equivalent, Vanessa. We have the rings to prove it (not as big as my World Championship Series rings, but probably more valuable). There are lots of guys I have played with in the past, and on the current big league club, who have been divorced. Some guys have been divorced more than once; Jon Benson, for example, who's married to his third wife. I'm not judging him for being married three times. Nor am I making fun of him. I'm into the whole "people got to be free" thing, as long as nobody gets hurt. That's why I feel I have to say something about the woman who's apparently crawled out of a hole somewhere to say she has been Jon's mistress through all three marriages.

The woman is Nicole Verdetta. She's 40 and lonely and an example of the ultimate groupie. Many groupies are the one-night stand kind. They do it to say they did it. No strings attached. But there are other groupies, some like Nicole, who do it, I don't want to say to "entrap" a player, but as an investment. They'll do what the player wants in exchange for money, or material things like cars and apartments. Ms. Verdetta is this, plus more. You saw Fatal Attraction, right? That comes to mind about now.

Yes, I know her. Not well. Jon's been on the team since 2004 and I've seen her on the road, sometimes in our hotel lobby, sometimes at a restaurant with Jon. Yes, I've known Jon has been married to his current wife, Kathryn, since 2003. Like I said, I don't judge.

This is going to sound wrong of me, but I'm on Jon's side here. If Nicole has been his "girlfriend" since the 1990s, through his first, very brief marriage through his second marriage of a few years and through his current marriage of almost 5 years, she's known the deal. Jon marries, lives with his wife during the off season and with her halftime during the baseball season, and Nicole gets the occasional off season long weekend and most in-season road trips. Why she's decided to go public and, from what I heard, pose for Playboy just doesn't make sense. Maybe Jon tried to break up. Maybe she's crazy. Either way, it's not just Jon she's hurting.

We, Jon's teammates, know our deal in this: Keep our mouths shut. Maybe that's not what we should do in these cases (and Jon isn't the only guy we have to turn the other cheek toward who escorts a woman other than his wife to the hotel elevator). Maybe we should put a napkin over the phone and anonymously call the wife, "I saw your husband with another woman," then hang up. Maybe we should open an anonymous email account and send something to the wife. "Keep an eye on your husband." Maybe we should tell our wives, nudge nudge, wink wink, and let them do the dirty work. But who does that help? Us by removing our guilt?

I know of some marriages that were considered "open marriages." In these, both members of the couple were free to "date" others while the ballplayer was on the road. Suppose Jon had a deal with his wives: I marry you because I love you, but I see Nicole because she does something for me nobody else could ever do; only she's nuts so I won't marry her." (To avoid a lawsuit, let me state now Nicole Verdetta has never been accused by anyone of being "nuts." I'm sure she's a very nice, misunderstood lady.) If I had said something to his wife, it would just come back to me and Jon, very pissed, would explain how it was a) none of my business, and b) he has an arrangement so screw you!

It always comes back to the player. I've seen fights, been in arguments, when a wife or a player snitches on another player's off field recreation schedule. Vanessa once tattled on a former teammate and, man, I almost had my head beaten to a bloody pulp by the guy who she tattled on. I know better. Vanessa knows better. It's none of our business. It can't be.

Ms. Verdetta has come out and made these allegations. To Jon's credit, he hasn't denied anything. But think of the pressure he's under now. Reporters are on his back. His wife (and not just his first) must be pressuring him. Jon also has three kids. They can't be happy about this. Then there's the team. We've penciled Jon in for 12-14 wins this year. Will the stress of this public problem seep into his mind and ruin him? Will he freak out if he sees a teammate with a copy of Playboy in his locker or on the team plane?

From what I understand, Ms. Verdetta doesn't have a job. She says Jon's been paying her, basically, to be his "friend" for years. That means she has time to do publicity, promoting her Playboy layout and article, maybe get a reality show or a book deal. She wants something from Jon, didn't get it, and is now on the warpath. Most groupies aren't this vindictive. We don't know the whole story and maybe we never will. Like I said, it's none of our business.

But when it all goes public, I guess it becomes our business. Let's hope this story doesn't ruin Jon's business, in baseball, and he wins his games and the public relations battle that lies before him.

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