Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Sheffield, at Peace with Himself, Looks to Make War on Opponents

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Sheffield, at Peace with Himself, Looks to Make War on Opponents

Article excerpt

There are no excuses this time. Gary Sheffield is healthy. He is happy. He finally is surrounded in the lineup by talent. His Florida Marlins team is expected to be a contender.

There is so much to play for. An MVP award. A Triple Crown. A World Seri es ring. A new contract. The respect he so craves.

"This should be that year," Sheffield said. "It's got to be that year." The 28-year-old is as excited about this season as he has been for any other, jazzed that the Marlins have shown a commitment to winning. He is in the best shape of his career, the byproduct of a winter spent working out harder than ever. He is about to end the first controversy-free offseason he has had in years, a sign he said reflects his growing maturity. Now he just has to go out and play. "I think everything is there for him to have a big year," Marlins assistant general manager Frank Wren said. "All the pieces are in place." Sheffield has been preparing since November, when he went to Atlanta to work out with Lee Haney, a former Mr. Olympia. Three hours a day, five days a week, Sheffield worked as he never had before and learned more about his body than he ever had. The results are impressive. While keeping his weight at a rock-solid 210, he dropped 3 inches off his waist, from 35 to 32, and added 2 inches to his chest, from 46 to 48, and his biceps, from 16 to 18. Sheffield said it is the best shape he has been in, and he measures it differently. "Now I can go out there and run 2 miles and I won't be about to die." He is also as happy as he has ever been. His winter was remarkably quiet, with no shootings, scandals or legal entanglements that have marred previous winters. "I've looked at all the stuff that's happened to me, and it needed to happen," Sheffield said. "Everyone needs a wakeup call in life. I'm smarter with my decisions and everything like that. I just take care of what I have to take care of. The only thing that matters to me is my family."' He is on good terms with the mothers of his three children and is starting to discuss marriage with Laverne Atkinson, a TV reporter he has been dating. He also is making a long-term commitment to St. Petersburg, his $2.8-million 15,000-square-foot dream house in Pinellas Point nearing completion, complete with a movie theater, weight room, game room, pool with an island and waterfall, boat dock and slips for five water scooters. "Right now all I'm doing is trying to find me a church to go to here where I can donate money and be a part of that church, because this is where my roots are going to lie," Sheffield said. "I'm looking at all the opportunities that are going to happen around here. The city's going to come up when the baseball team is here next year and all those things. We can also try to get Belmont Heights (Little League, in Tampa) back on its feet by staying here. …

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