The last bit of chewing tobacco Torey Lovullo ever put in his mouth came out of a trash can.
It was just before the first day of 2006, and the longtime chewing tobacco user was trying his best to quit the habit. He had thrown away what he thought was his last plug of chew into a trash bucket, but then he couldn't resist. Back in went the hand, pulling out the source of his addiction for one more go-round.
But that was it. A few days later came a New Year's resolution that stands to this day.
"I just had seen enough pictures of people dipping for too long. It kind of made me think it was a good idea that I should shut it down," said the Red Sox bench coach. "Those pictures ranged from not having teeth, to having situations where they remove part of your jaw. What you see now isn't what's going to happen 25 years from now."
Many have been able to head down the same path as Lovullo. Others -- such as the Red Sox player who still chews tobacco despite trying such extreme measures as hypnosis -- are stuck.
Here's the reality: This is a serious problem that probably never will leave baseball. The minor league ban on tobacco is an unbelievably flawed process, and enough big leaguers still openly flaunt their tobacco chewing for all to see that kids will continue to emulate their heroes.
On Wednesday, thanks to Curt Schilling's interview on the Dennis & Callahan show during the Jimmy Fund Radio-Telethon, we once again were offered the uncomfortable reminder.
Schilling announced that his current bout with mouth cancer was a result of 30 years of partaking in chewing tobacco. While the circumstances offered sadness and shock, the former Red Sox pitcher's choice for explaining his recent fight couldn't have been timed better.
In the midst of an event built on the quest to raise awareness for the fight against cancer, Schilling punctuated at least a portion of the cause like few radio-telethons before it. Money was raised. Awareness was achieved. And, as was evidenced immediately after the former hurler's proclamation, an important conversation was started.
Will this tobacco issue in baseball ever subside? Probably not. Can a dent be put in the prevalent usage? That's worthy of the debate pushed along by Schilling's appearance on D&C.
Up until Tony Gwynn's death in June of cancer believed to be caused by chewing tobacco, there had been other reminders of the hazards involved in "chewing" or "dipping." Baseball would often make a point of showing players the cause and effect, as Angels third base coach Gary DiSarcina remembered when recounting why he quit cold turkey in '01.
A former player -- disfigured from mouth surgery -- had spoken to DiSarcina's club in spring training, leading the former Red Sox Triple-A manager to throw his last tin of Skoal out the car window on his way home. The images of the the former tobacco user, along with the responsibilities that came with his young family, had pushed the shortstop to finally quit a habit taken up as a teenager.
"You don't want to have your kid asking about those dip cups lying around, what's in your pocket, or what's in your lip," he said. "Having kids for me got me thinking more about being more responsible."
Players such as the Nationals' Stephen Strasburg and Addison Russell of the Diamondbacks vowed to quit chewing tobacco after the Gwynn tragedy. Hopefully a few more major leaguers use the slap in the face Schilling supplied to follow suit.
Still, the problem reaches well beyond that surface.
It is admirable baseball has banned tobacco use in the minor leagues. The rules state that minor leaguers can't use tobacco at any time in the clubhouse or on the field, and tobacco containers are even forbidden from their lockers. The regulations are governed partly by "dip police," who randomly check clubhouses and umpires (during games). If a player is caught, both he and his manager are supposed to be fined (thought to be a $1,500 hit at Triple-A).
However, after talking to those in the heart of those situations, it is clear the rules aren't preventing the use of tobacco in the minors. Not only do the players continue to chew and dip everywhere but the clubhouse and field, but they often hide their containers on the premises out of sight of the often hardly intrusive "dip police."
Also -- believe it or not -- there appears to be a reluctance by the umpires to enforce the regulations since many of them also still chew tobacco.
And here's the kicker: If a minor leaguer is on the 40-man roster, he is not subject to the minor league tobacco regulations. In other words, a pitcher who is banned from dipping could be staring down at a catcher with a big wad of tobacco in his mouth for an entire game.
The minor league mandate is flawed, but it also doesn't hurt. The same could be said for some adjustments made to major league environments. Players, coaches and managers aren't allowed to use tobacco products during televised interviews, while also being forced to conceal such items in their uniform or on their body. There is also the significantly diminished availability of tobacco within the clubhouses, a change that some see as very significant.
"When I first came up, dip and chew was all over the clubhouse," DiSarcina said. "You could walk up to where the chips and hot dogs rack was and you could grab a bag of Red Man or a tin of Copenhagen. Just eliminating it from the clubhouse has helped. And not allowing the clubbies to go buy it helps. It being available so readily just contributed to doing it. For me, I never had to go anywhere."
Yet, the biggest step has yet to be made: not putting images of players chewing tobacco in front of teenage wannabes.
About 40 percent of the Red Sox position players currently use chewing tobacco, a noticeable dip from even a few years back. It could be construed as a positive that many of the younger players on this roster (Xander Bogaerts, Mookie Betts, Brock Holt, Daniel Nava, etc.) aren't users. And when you look across the field and see two of the most visible players in baseball -- Angels stars Mike Trout and Albert Pujols -- avoiding the stuff, that's a step in the right direction.
The mandates. The change in culture. The reminders. Yes, there has been progress.
"What I like about it is a deterrent," Lovullo said of baseball's stabs at discouraging tobacco use. "It's a thankless job because it's almost impossible to stop a grown man from stopping something he's choosing to do. They're going to find their spot and they're going to hide it. I think if we initiate this program it's going to stop the younger players from trying to do it and attempting to get started. Once you get started it's a terrible habit to break. We're in this transition phase. There are still players who are using because they were probably using before these rules were in effect.
"I remember Bob Welch at Dodger Stadium. I was a 16-year-old kid sitting there watching him throw his last warm-up pitch, sit behind the mound, slap a big dip in there. I thought, 'What in the world is he doing?' It kind of piqued my curiosity. We no longer see those things happening, and I think it's a good thing kids don't see that anymore."
The problem is that there is still too much downtime. There are too many teammates doing it. There continue to be too many introductions to the addiction. And, most importantly, there simply still is too much acceptance at the most important level of all -- during the teenage years.
"I didn't really care that much to do it because I knew it was bad. I just didn't want cancer. Peer pressure wasn't worth it," Nava said. "A lot of guys try it at least one time, and most of the guys say they hate it the first time. I think it turns into a thing of boredom. But if they want to stop it, they have to stop it in high school."
Maybe, just maybe, a few of those kids were listening to Curt Schilling Wednesday morning, because that was one of the most powerful messages of all.