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Betrayal of Trust?; Freeing the Chimps; The Last Season
Aired April 28, 2012 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANNOUNCER: Tonight on CNN PRESENTS.
"Betrayal of Trust?" Sexual assaults on the rise at the nation's prestigious military academies.
KARLEY MARQUET, FORMER WEST POINT CADET: I remember him turning off the lights and me asking, what are you doing?
ANNOUNCER: Women who feel betrayed by the military they committed to serve and the Pentagon's battle to do something about it.
"Freeing the Chimps."
JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN PRESENTS CORRESPONDENT: So this is the infamous --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The dungeon.
ANNOUNCER: These research chimps are getting their first taste of freedom. But what about the unlucky ones still behind bars?
"The Last Season." At 39, he's banking his career on a risky experiment.
DREW GRIFFIN: Do you ever lay in bed and think, am I delusional?
ANNOUNCER: One man's willingness to do anything for one last chance to play a sport he can't live without.
Revealing investigations. Fascinating characters. Stories with impact. This is CNN PRESENTS with tonight's hosts, Randi Kaye and Drew Griffin.
RANDI KAYE, CNN PRESENTS HOST: Just this week, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta announced new aggressive policies to combat sexual assaults in the military. Zero tolerance is the message from the Pentagon's top commander.
GRIFFIN: But ground zero for battling the growing problem may start at the nation's most prestigious military academies.
KAYE: Reports of sexual assaults at the academies rose by nearly 60 percent in the past year. And out of the 65 cases reported, only one resulted in court-martial. GRIFFIN: That's why two young women say they are coming forward. In a lawsuit filed this week, they alleged they were raped in their first year at the academies. Tonight they speak to Kyra Phillips for the first time.
KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN PRESENTS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): West Point. The Naval Academy. The Air Force Academy. Prestigious military institutions tasked with training future officers ethically, spiritually, and morally. But for these high school honor students, their experience would be far different.
MARQUET: I remember him turning off the lights and me asking, what are you doing?
ANNIE KENDZIOR, FORMER NAVAL ACADEMY MIDSHIPMAN: In the middle of the night, I did come to and he was on top of me.
PHILLIPS: Karley Marquet and Annie Kendzior say they were raped. Raped by fellow classmates they trusted and ignored, they say, by a chain of command that promised their parents they'd be protected.
RUSS KENDZIOR, ANNIE'S FATHER: And nobody, not a single person, not one, was looking out for her best interest.
PHILLIPS: Karley Marquet was not your typical teenage girl. That's her, cage fighting at 18.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's it, Karley.
PHILLIPS: An all-star rugby player, a championship swimmer and honor student, Karley could have gone to college anywhere.
(On camera): What was it about West Point that drew you to that academy?
MARQUET: Just knowing you kind of have your future set having the structure and that discipline but at the same time having people look at you, like, wow, you're doing something great for our country.
PHILLIPS (voice-over): Her sister was a midshipman at the Naval Academy, her father a Marine. To Karley, they were heroes, everything she wanted to be.
(On camera): Do you think West Point let you down?
MARQUET: Yes. I wanted to be there. It was my dream.
PHILLIPS (voice-over): A dream that was shattered her first year when an upperclassman showed up at her door to talk girl troubles.
MARQUET: I kind of felt a little cool that an upperclassman wanted to be friends with me and was seeking my advice.
PHILLIPS: After sharing a drink, Karley says he convinced her to come to his room. Since he was an upperclassman, she trusted him.
MARQUET: I remember just getting more and more intoxicated and my judgment really started to become impaired. I remember him turning off the lights and me asking, what are you doing? And then he proceed to rape me.
PHILLIPS: Karley says she woke up disoriented, in physical pain, and afraid to come forward.
MARQUET: I was scared it was going to ruin my career. I was scared if I said anything that there would constantly be a target on my back. I reached out to people, and they weren't there. I just didn't want to leave my room. I mean, he was right across the hall.
PHILLIPS (on camera): And you still had to work under him, take out his trash.
MARQUET: Well, it was part of our duties.
PHILLIPS: Chain of command.
PHILLIPS (voice-over): Chain of command. Military ranks where senior students have authority over the one immediately below. So every day, Karley had to face the man she says raped her. But weeks later, Karley finally found the courage to come forward, she filed a report and requested an investigation.
MARQUET: And the reason I ended up telling someone is because I didn't want that to happen to anyone else.
PHILLIPS: Annie Kendzior describes herself as a girly girl who never imagined joining the military. An honor student and one of the best high school soccer players in the country, she was heavily recruited by top Ivy League schools, but the Naval Academy was the most convincing.
KENDZIOR: All their graduates that graduated from the soccer team went on and became pilots and Marine officers. It just sounded like, yes, those women are so powerful and so well respected, and I wanted to be that woman.
PHILLIPS: Annie's goal was to fly F-18s. But it wasn't long after arriving she realized that wasn't going to happen.
KENDZIOR: I could tell that there is definitely a bias towards the women. I mean, you're a female entering into a fraternity, a giant frat.
PHILLIPS: Annie says there were no derogatory names for the men, but women were called DUBs. (On camera): What does DUB mean?
KENDZIOR: DUB. A dumb ugly bitch.
PHILLIPS: Were you ever called a DUB?
KENDZIOR: Every girl was called a DUB.
PHILLIPS (voice-over): It was definitely a different culture and Annie felt out of place. So when she got invited to go to an off- campus party she was in.
KENDZIOR: I was, like, OK, cool, college finally. I can live the college life for one night.
PHILLIPS: But Annie says she had way too much to drink. So when a fellow midshipman offered her a place to crash, she accepted.
KENDZIOR: I was, like, OK, it'll be fine. I trust you. You're an upper class, because that's what they teach you to trust your upper class.
PHILLIPS (on camera): So tell me what happened once he took you back to the room.
KENDZIOR: I just laid down and went to sleep. At one part in the middle of the night, I did come to, and he was on top of me. And I remember saying no. But then I just passed back out again.
PHILLIPS (voice-over): Annie was afraid to come forward.
(On camera): Why were you scared?
KENDZIOR: I didn't want to be the girl that got the athlete kicked out. Because we had been told stories about how that had happened in the past. And I didn't want to be that next story.
PHILLIPS: For two years, Annie battled depression and thoughts of suicide. She had a secret she couldn't keep anymore and finally called her father.
R. KENDZIOR: And she said, I was raped. And I couldn't breathe.
PHILLIPS: Still ahead, the battle to change the system.
(On camera): How do you get it through these men's heads, if they rape, they will pay the price?
GRIFFIN: In a lawsuit just filed, allegations of rape at West Point and the Naval Academy. Two young women say they risked their careers to come forward and request an investigation. They wanted the men they say raped them to be prosecuted. One year later they're still waiting.
Kyra Phillips continues our investigation.
PHILLIPS (voice-over): When Karley Marquet came forward to say she was raped at West Point, she believed her case would be investigated.
MARQUET: I remember the investigators meeting with my parents and they promised my parents that, if he wasn't going to jail, they could at least get him kicked out of West Point with the evidence they had.
PHILLIPS (on camera): But he's still there.
MARQUET: He's still there.
PHILLIPS (voice-over): Annie Kendzior says she, too, believed her allegations of rape would be investigated.
KENDZIOR: I was like, OK, great, they're going to get him. I think good.
PHILLIPS: But Karley and Annie say their alleged perpetrators were never punished. So now they filed a lawsuit naming former secretary of states, Robert Gates, the former superintendents of West Point and the Naval Academy, secretary of the Navy, Ray Mabus, and secretary of the Army, John McCue.
The lawsuit claims there was limited support from commanders and failure to ensure sexual predators were prosecuted and incarcerated for their crimes.
Karley and Annie are not alone. Reports of sexual assault at the academies are up nearly 60 percent. And of the 65 reports investigated last year, only one resulted in a court martial.
REP. JACKIE SPEIER (D), CALIFORNIA: I ache for those former cadet and midshipman who have had their lives torn up. It shouldn't be that way.
PHILLIPS: Congresswoman Jackie Speier has gone to the House floor 19 times.
SPEIER: We need to overhaul this system.
PHILLIPS: Demanding that Congress and the military change the way sexual assaults are prosecuted.
SPEIER: You report everything through your chain of command. So I'm raped. I go to my commander, I say, I've been raped. My commander can say to me, well, you know, I'm not going to pursue this. Or, take an aspirin and go to bed. As long as it's going to be in the chain of command, there's always going to be a conflict.
PHILLIPS: Her bill, the Stop Act, would take investigations away from the chain of command and turn them over to an impartial council of civilian and military experts.
SPEIER: If you're not going to have your assailant prosecuted, why would you want to come forward? Because you're basically setting yourself up to lose your career in the military.
PHILLIPS: Speier says for years her calls have gone unanswered, until Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta took office.
LEON PANETTA, DEFENSE SECRETARY: We've got to train commanders to understand that when these complaints are brought they've got to do their damnest to make sure that these people are brought to justice. That's the only way we're going to try to prevent this in the future, is to show that people can't get away with it.
PHILLIPS (on camera): How do you get it through these men's heads, if they rape, they will pay the price?
PANETTA: This place operates by command authority, and it has to begin at the top. And the message has to go down to the bottom.
PHILLIPS (on camera): Still, Panetta will not take investigations away from the chain of command, but he is changing the rules. Announcing new initiatives just one week after our interview.
PANETTA: What I will do is change the way these cases are handled in the military.
PHILLIPS: Here's what Panetta is doing differently. He created a special victims unit to investigate sexual assaults. Now instead of slowly making their way up the chain of command, all cases will begin at the level of colonel.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Everybody has to do due diligence. Commanders like I said have bosses. If that commander is not doing their job, you relieve their butts of command.
PHILLIPS: Major General Mary Kay Hertogg has the Sexual Response and Prevention Office.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And you have to look at this every single day and you have to take what every victim says seriously. I want our victims to come forward.
PHILLIPS: But the changes in policy come too late for Karley Marquet and Annie Kendzior. Their military careers are over.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It hurts me to hear that because we betrayed their trust and we didn't take care of them. And we need to do a much better job.
PHILLIPS: According to the lawsuit, as a result of the rape, Karley became depressed and suicidal. Unable to handle the stress of seeing her alleged perpetrator every day. Karley resigned from West Point.
MARQUET: It's like I felt like a blemish.
PHILLIPS (on camera): Because they knew you reported the rape.
PHILLIPS (voice-over): Annie says she, too, became suicidal. She was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder and, according to her lawsuit, was then forced to leave the academy.
PANETTA: It hurts the message that we're trying to get out there.
PHILLIPS: Because of privacy issues, Panetta couldn't comment specifically on Karley and Annie's cases, but he does make clear that blaming the victim needs to stop.
(On camera): Personality disorder? Academic separation? I mean --
PANETTA: I think that's part of the syndrome that we're dealing with, which is that, you know, once a decision is made that somehow this prosecution is not going to move toward, then you basically turn on the victim who brought that complaint and try to do everything possible to make sure that that victim doesn't hang around. Or, really, diminish them by somehow accusing them of having psychological problems. That syndrome is what we have to break out of.
PHILLIPS (voice-over): And for Karley and Annie, if coming forward helps with that mission, they want to be a part of the battle.
MARQUET: I know, with at least one person coming forward, there will be others that want to come forward and say something.
KENDZIOR: Because then they might get their perpetrators put behind bars, which is where they should be.
GRIFFIN: West Point and the Naval Academy say they couldn't comment on Karley and Annie's allegations because of privacy issues. Both women have request copies of their case files to learn more about why the men they say raped them are still in the military.
Coming up, from the laboratory to freedom. The journey of a group of chimps that get a new lease on life.
KAYE: The Disney film "Chimpanzee" just out this week shows the cute creatures enjoying life in the wild acting a lot like us. But thousands of chimps being used for research here in the United States are cooped up in cages. There's a fierce debate over whether the primates should be forced to endure that kind of captivity. A bill before Congress would ban invasive research on chimpanzees.
John Zarrella follows a group of chimps whose research days are finally over and looks at what's ahead for those who aren't so lucky.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) ZARRELLA (voice-over): Winter snow came early. Melting now under a warming December sun. A new season begins and, for some, the beginning of a cross-country journey. To freedom.
You hear them long before you see them. When you see them, their features are unmistakable. Ten chimpanzees are here with names like Bart and Sarah.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Sarah. You want to play? No. Bart wants to have all the attention.
ZARRELLA: They've lived most of their lives behind these walls, some for decades. They were research chimps, used to test everything from the toxicity of pesticides in hair sprays to cures for AIDS and hepatitis. Now these are the last of 266 to leave this one-time biomedical lab the Coulston Foundation, in Alamogordo, New Mexico.
For Jen Feuerstein, sanctuary director of the Save the Chimps Foundation, is it a promise fulfilled.
JEN FEUERSTEIN, SANCTUARY DIRECTOR, SAVE THE CHIMPS FOUNDATION: Failure was never an option for us, and the only thing that's ever slowed us down is that it takes a long time for the chimps to get used to living in family groups because they didn't have that opportunity growing up.
ZARRELLA (on camera): Because this is where they lived.
ZARRELLA (voice-over): Feuerstein is finishing a dream begun by her late boss Carol Noon to give these animals who've been knocked out with darts, injected with disease, blood drawn and biopsy, a life in a place where they can be, quite simply, chimps.
A decade ago, Frederick Coulston lost federal funding after numerous violations of the Animal Welfare Act. In one case, three chimps literally cooked to death when their enclosure heated to 140 degrees. Coulston, now deceased, denied abuse accusations during a 1995 interview with CNN.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FREDERICK COULSTON, COULSTON FOUNDATION: We don't abuse animals. We try to treat them as -- according to the regulations of the law and even beyond that.
ZARRELLA: Facing bankruptcy, he finally sold the facility and animals to Save the Chimps. It was the beginning of a great migration. For 10 years, a dozen or so at a time have left the cold walls and steel bars for a new home, an island sanctuary.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is the last crew.
ZARRELLA (on camera): The last, the last crew.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. This is the crazy, young, wonderful, vivacious crew.
ZARRELLA: Well, they're kind of mellowed right now.
(Voice-over): Veterinarian Jocelyn Bezner checks her charges.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So what I want to do now is I just want to go over each one, make sure they look healthy.
ZARRELLA: Bart was born here, he turned 20 on January 14th. Like most of the chimps his records are sketchy at best.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So we don't know what the study was for. We just know that he was in a study.
ZARRELLA: Experts say every chimp has its own personality. Bart's is spitting vinegar. He interrupts my conversation with Bezner.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's the testosterone.
ZARRELLA: He was getting a kick out of his antics. The concrete and steel enclosures have been modified with pass-throughs. The chimps can visit each other, play, roughhouse. It wasn't that way before Save the Chimps took over.
(On camera): So this is it the infamous --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is the dungeon.
ZARRELLA: The dungeon.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is it the dungeon. And this a small cage that they lived in.
(Voice-over): Like a prison, one cell after another, chimps lived this way sitting day after day, year after year, until needed for a research project.
(On camera): What do you feel like when you walk in here?
FEUERSTEIN: It's almost like it's haunted. It's a really dismal place. There's not really a lot of good memories here for any of us.
ZARRELLA (voice-over): Here at least it's just memories. The story is much different a few miles down the road at Holloman Air Force Base. Before humans flew in space, a chimp named Ham did. Not that he had a choice. The old footage shows chimps being trained, examined, playing, and dying.
A chimp strapped into a form-fitting shell is secured inside a cylinder on a rocket sled. He's propelled down the track to test survivability after a sudden stop. The answer is evident in the lifeless body. Once no longer needed, most of these air force chimps eventually ended up in the hands of, you guessed it, Frederick Coulston. By the mid-'90s, Coulston ran two facilities, just miles apart. A rare Air Force tour in 1997 shed light on the research they were subjected to under Coulston.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is that animal was -- has been knocked with HIV. He's on HIV protocols.
ZARRELLA: The chimps are now owned by the National Institutes of Health, NIH. There is a moratorium on using or, for that matter, retiring some or all of the 170 chimps housed at Holliman until an expert panel weighs in next year.
DR. JAMES ANDERSON, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF HEALTH: They're inactive. They're not involved in research and they, like others that are inactive, are waiting for recommendations from this working group on how many would be needed in the long term.
ZARRELLA (on camera): What's troubling to me is, why do you need somebody to tell you how many you need when you folks have been funding it and been responsible for it. Why do you need somebody else to tell you your business, how many you need?
ANDERSON: The NIH seeks input from the public in many different ways.
ZARRELLA (voice-over): So, until a decision is made on whether they're needed for future research, the chimps sit caged, in limbo. It is estimated these and other federally owned chimps cost taxpayers $30 million a year. While their fate remains uncertain, down the road it's now moving day for Bart, Sarah, and the others.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Bart, come on.
ZARRELLA: Coming up, the journey to freedom continues.
ANNOUNCER: We now return to CNN PRESENTS with your hosts tonight, Randi Kaye and Drew Griffin.
GRIFFIN: For chimps, Bart, Sarah and friends, a new life is about to begin.
KAYE: But there's a growing debate over the future of nearly 1,000 chimpanzees still in research facilities, costing taxpayers millions of dollars.
John Zarrella continues our investigation.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All right.
ZARRELLA (voice-over): The atmosphere is exciting. The staff coaxes the chimps from their enclosures into travel cages. Sarah is the first in. Bart is not buying it.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Bart, come on. It's OK.
ZARRELLA: Veterinarian Jocelyn Bezner has to sedate him. She hides the needle in a glove.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, you're so suspicious. Come here.
ZARRELLA: Minutes later, after a second injection, Bart is out. As the work to coax the others continues, Bart is gently moved into the travel cage. It has taken all day. By nightfall, the 10 chimps are loaded in the trailer. There are tears, hugs, as the staff and volunteers say good-bye.
FEUERSTEIN: It's time for them to go and start their new life. It's been a long time coming, and we're finally here.
ZARRELLA: The trip from New Mexico will take two days, stops only to feed and check on the chimps. The chimp mobile moves east, passing Lafayette, Louisiana, home to the New Iberia Research Center which houses 360 chimpanzees. New Iberia was the focus of a 2008 undercover humane society investigation. It showed primates being darted, falling over unconscious, self-mutilating, disturbing video but not torture, says center director Thomas Rowell.
DR. THOMAS J. ROWELL, DIRECTOR, NEW IBERIA RESEARCH CENTER: It never rose to the point of an animal welfare violation or an animals being tortured. It was, you know, people maybe rushed to do a job, not being as careful as they could have been.
ZARRELLA: We are allowed in, says Rowell, because the future use of chimps in research is in serious doubt.
(On camera): Would you have invited cameras, CNN cameras in years ago here?
ROWELL: Again, that's not -- that was not part of our mission, OK? Because it wasn't part of our mission, the answer is no. Our mission is public health, not public entertainment.
ZARRELLA (voice-over): The Great Ape Protection and Cost Savings Act sits in Congress. If passed, it will stop all invasive research using chimpanzees and just last year an Institute of Medicine study commissioned by the National Institutes of Health found the use of chimps for current research is, in most cases, quote, "unnecessary." Soon after, the NIH suspended all new chimp research grants.
So what happens if the approximately 1,000 research chimps are retired?
ANDREW ROWAN, THE HUMANE SOCIETY OF THE UNITED STATES: Chimpanzees, if we don't have them today, we would find other ways of doing the research and I would argue better ways of doing it.
ROWELL: I think some treatments for cancer, for certain auto immune diseases will be delayed. I think there will be suffering. I think there will be an increase in deaths among people.
ZARRELLA: Some researchers believe chimps will be instrumental in developing vaccines for emerging diseases we've not yet heard of and for hepatitis C. Even with hep C, the NIH insists it's doing everything it can to eliminate the need for chimps.
ANDERSON: Just in the last year, investigators have developed a mouse model that can be infected with hepatitis C by introducing a human gene into the mouse. So we're busy trying to create alternative models to avoid the use of chimpanzees.
ZARRELLA: But the NIH is not ready to pull the plug entirely.
ANDERSON: We welcome the day when there's no need for the use of chimpanzees in research.
ZARRELLA (on camera): But you still think that that day isn't here yet.
ANDERSON: I don't think it is.
ZARRELLA (voice-over): The NIH's Anderson told us they're waiting for guidance from that so-called expert panel that is evaluating for them all things chimp.
ANDERSON: We've asked them to consider all of those options and give us priorities.
ZARRELLA: With not enough sanctuaries, it's clear many chimps might stay right where they are, languishing for the remainder of their lives in places like Alamogordo or living in these prima domes.
BABETTE FONTENOT, NEW IBERIA RESEARCH CENTER: We like the prima domes. We think that they're really nice enclosures.
ZARRELLA: About a third of the chimps at New Iberia live in them, the rest in cages. If new law changes, New Iberia hopes to be considered a sanctuary site.
The future for research chimps is at best unclear. For Bart and Sarah and their friends, the future is crystal clear. The chimp mobile has arrived in Ft. Pierce, Florida. Their first taste of freedom is finally here. Their days in a cage over. One by one, they are released into their new housing enclosures, 10 years after this great migration began, the last 10 of the 266 one-time research chimps are home.
They're greeted by friends who arrived in a group just before them.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That was sweet.
ZARRELLA: The next morning the culmination of a decade's work.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All right, guys. Are you ready?
ZARRELLA: The doors separating the chimps from their island, from grass and sunshine and fresh air, are opened.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hi. You did so good. You did so good. You're outside, buddy.
ZARRELLA: You wonder, what are they thinking? Is the past forgotten? Do they know they are the lucky ones?
KAYE: Up next, how far would you'll go to play the game you love? One man who's staking his career on a risky medical procedure.
GRIFFIN: For any professional athlete, the decision to finally quit and move on with your life is agonizing. Tonight, the story about a professional baseball risk who took an enormous medical risk, spent thousands of dollars of his own money, just for the chance to once again be in the Major Leagues, to be in what professionals call "the show."
GRIFFIN (voice-over): At 39 years old, Christopher John Nitkowski really has no business trying to pitch in the Major Leagues. In baseball terms, he is a has-been. Just don't tell him that.
CHRISTOPHER JOHN NITKOWSKI, LEFT-HANDED PROFESSIONAL BASEBALL PLAYER: So you go as long as you can. I had a good friend tell me one time, make them tear the uniform off you. You can do whatever you're going to the rest of your life. You can't play baseball forever.
I don't have everyone, but most of them are --
GRIFFIN: His Major League jersey collection is evidence, though, that he has tried.
NITKOWSKI: They're almost all there.
(On camera): Cincinnati, Detroit --
NITKOWSKI: They're in order. Houston, you know, I went back to Detroit.
NITKOWSKI: I get traded for the Mets and from the Mets I went back to the Astros. Texas picked me up. And within four weeks I was back in the big leagues again. And it's just -- it has been a roller coaster.
GRIFFIN (voice-over): So many teams hired and fired Nitkowski, the path is almost dizzying. He was a fresh-faced rookie in 1995, with the Cincinnati Reds. Then, after 10 big league seasons, came the final cut in the Majors. The Washington Nationals in 2005. That only sent him looking for other jerseys to wear.
NITKOWSKI: These are my Japanese jerseys home and away. I played for three different teams in Korea.
GRIFFIN: Finally last year, the career-ending injury. He was hurt, he says, right here, pitching to high schoolers, trying to increase his velocity. He felt a twinge in his pitching shoulder. At 39, married with three kids, it was the moment he should have stopped playing games, moving on like so many others into coaching or perhaps a real job. Instead, he took the biggest gamble of his professional career.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Little bit of pain again. Doing all right so far?
NITKOWSKI: Yes, I'm fine.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't want you to faint on us.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'll take our magic potion.
GRIFFIN: He decided on an experiment, the same experiment that produced last year's miracle comeback.
Yankee pitcher Bartolo Colon was all but washed-up until he was injected with his own stem cells and platelet enriched plasma, PRP, at the Florida clinic of Dr. Joseph Purita. Colon returned to the mound stunning the baseball world with a better-than-average comeback season.
(On camera): And you think your procedure is what did it.
DR. JOSEPH PURITA, OAKS MEDICAL COMPLEX: I think it helped him. I think it gave him the ability to maybe go back and play. So I think it's a combination of a lot of factors but certainly I think what we did certainly helped.
GRIFFIN (voice-over): Last fall, Nitkowski decided he would pay several thousand dollars for the same procedure, first harvesting and re-inject his own stem cells into his damaged shoulder, then his own platelet-enriched plasma, a kind of super blood. Dr. Purita admits there's no scientific proof any of these works but his patients like this man trying to avoid knee surgery, swear by it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How are we doing?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Excellent. So am I.
GRIFFIN: Purita's critics, however, stop just short of calling him a fraud.
DR. GEORGE DALEY, INTERNATIONAL SOCIETY OF STEM CELL RESEARCH: We might as well be talking about crystals and healing. The fact is, stem cells hold great promise because there's real scientific and medical rationale for using them. But we are ignorant about their use. We've certainly had very little experience with putting them into patients. So what we're worried about are the risks and the risks are many.
GRIFFIN: Dr. George Daley is past president of the International Society for Stem Cell Research and a physician at Children's Hospital in Boston. At our request, he examined a long informational packet Purita had posted on his Web site.
DALEY: If it were subjected to a critical analysis by experts in the field, it would be dismissed as unfortunately superficial and inaccurate.
GRIFFIN (on camera): The paper you sent us we gave to George Daley.
PURITA: Of course I've heard of him. You know what's interesting, I can't really dispute him because of the fact, as I said earlier in an interview, we really don't have a good uniform idea yet as to what constitutes good plate enriched plasma. What is it? I mean you can ask 10 doctors and they're going to give you 10 different answers. We really need you to get together and form an idea as to what it is.
GRIFFIN (voice-over): Nitkowski wasn't interested in a scientific debate, just his shoulder and getting a chance at another jersey. When we met him last fall, a few days after the injections, he was working out, banging tennis balls from a machine to loosen up. Then agility drills with his personal trainer. Finally tossing a football before getting to throw a baseball.
(On camera): So how long from right this moment until you pitch a baseball?
NITKOWSKI: I kind of play it by ear, but the goal is somewhere around three weeks.
GRIFFIN (voice-over): But to do that means putting off major life decisions. Working out instead of looking for that real job. Working out day after day after day after day.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm trying to put him in as neutral position as possible so that when he strengthens the rotator cuffs in the shoulders we maximize the strength.
GRIFFIN (on camera): You have been working out crazy. Do you ever lay in bed and think, am I delusional?
NITKOWSKI: There's times when you question yourself. Anything you want to do, if you have a passion about it, you're going to do whatever it takes to do it. And so that's where I'm at. There's times doubt definitely creeps in. I say, what am I doing?
GRIFFIN (voice-over): What he is trying to do is make a miracle comeback, as a pitching specialist, a side-armor, brought in to give one or two left-handers out in the late innings. A new athlete, revived with the help of stem cells.
NITKOWSKI: Your job would be to come in, get that lefty out in the big situation, get out of the game as quickly as possible before a righty comes up. Yes.
GRIFFIN: By December, he was at an indoor facility in New Jersey throwing a baseball again and with some zip.
NITKOWSKI: There's some life there. I still got some work to do, but I'm thrilled where I am right now.
GRIFFIN: Thrilled or not, however, pitching off and into a mound was one thing. Throwing against a real hitter was another.
NITKOWSKI: What is next for me is to try to find a place to pitch.
GRIFFIN: Coming up, a baseball nomad winds up in yet another field of dreams. Or is this a pipe dream?
NITKOWSKI: I don't want to say it's been a debacle, but there's been a lot of back-and-forth and uncertainty from the beginning.
GRIFFIN: With his stem cell injections behind him, his pitching arm rehabilitated, C.J. Nitkowski is about to head to a place he's never been, but will it lead him back to the Major Leagues?
GRIFFIN (voice-over): It's the second day of the New Year, and C.J. Nitkowski is chasing his dream. Again. This time in Santo Domingo, capital of the Dominican Republic.
NITKOWSKI: It took patience, a lot of phone calls. I've been trying to do this since late October, trying to get here.
GRIFFIN: He paid his own way, just to get a chance at a tryout with one of the four baseball teams still playing Dominican winter ball.
NITKOWSKI: I told my agent, I said, listen, if you can get a team even slightly interested, let them know I'll come down, throw for them, let them see me in person. I understand it's -- teams will be a little bit hesitant because I didn't play baseball this year.
GRIFFIN: So that's why C.J. Nitkowski finds himself here, outside the biggest baseball stadium in Santo Domingo, waiting, checking his BlackBerry, not quite sure what's going to happen next.
NITKOWSKI: I don't want to say it's been a debacle, but it's -- it's just been a lot of back-and-forth and uncertainty from the beginning. A month ago I thought I was told I probably had a job here, and two weeks after that, I was told I definitely had a job here. And then that fell through.
GRIFFIN: But on this day, his perseverance pays off.
NITKOWSKI: I'm a pretty patient man.
GRIFFIN: And he walks into the stadium, not to audition for the home team but for the visitors, the Giants. Gigantes, in Spanish. And their pitching coach, Miguel Oponte.
(On camera): And you never lose the passion? NITKOWSKI: The passion never goes away because then you stop. If you lose the passion, when you start moving around a lot, getting released, sign, all that kind of stuff, if you lose the passion, you're done. So I never lost hope.
GRIFFIN (voice-over): As the sun sets and the team gets ready for a night game, it's time to show what the months of workouts, his stem cell therapy, and his rehab have delivered. But there's a problem. A good one.
NITKOWSKI: I feel fine right now. I'm ready to go. So it's a matter of what you think you want --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't need to have you throw anything, no bullpen, no hitters.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you tell me that your arm is good enough to pitch in the game, that's good with me because I know you.
GRIFFIN: Turns out, his coach had not really known C.J. but remembered him from a spring training 15 years earlier.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I know you because I was with Houston when you were there, '97/'98.
NITKOWSKI: The fun, the excitement, the competitiveness that goes on playing at a high level in any sport, it's hard to find that anywhere else.
GRIFFIN (on camera): And you still want in.
NITKOWSKI: Absolutely. I mean, it's fun. You have a shelf life on your career, you know, and it chases you. And for me I know it's close, and maybe it's over. Who knows?
GRIFFIN (voice-over): In the visitors' bullpen, Nitkowski throws his pitches anyway with his new side arm delivery. He whips a curveball to a young catcher and throws a few more to a teenage batter. Everyone here seems younger.
NITKOWSKI: I'm almost 39 years old, you know. I'm, like, what am I doing with the stem cells? Why am I trying to change my arm angle? But you know it's a pretty easy answer for me. I'm still passionate about what I do.
GRIFFIN: The next afternoon, Nitkowski is in a car for the long drive to the Dominican countryside, to his new hometown, San Francisco de Macoris, and his new team.
NITKOWSKI: Basically the Gigantes said they'll sign me for the rest of the playoffs. I shouldn't say for the rest. For today. It's I think -- it's, you know, it's probably day by day. There's not a lot of margin for error.
GRIFFIN: This is hardly the big leagues. Baseball refugees from all over are here. The clubhouse is littered with equipment bags from dozens of different teams. An hour after arriving, an assistant general manager shows up with a contract, the payday. Well, not huge.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: $2,500 for the rest of the playoff.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: $2500.
NITKOWSKI: That's fine.
NITKOWSKI: Yes. No problem. Thank you very much. Appreciate it.
GRIFFIN: He gets his new baseball cap and his first job in professional baseball in almost two years.
NITKOWSKI: It feels good. I mean, this is what I've worked for, you know, for all this, just to have an opportunity.
GRIFFIN: The fact is, C.J. Nitkowski is back but not to what he once was. He throws side arm now, hoping for just one more chance to climb that mound, back in the bigs. He's not as fast and, by baseball standards, he is old. In five winter league games in the Dominican Republic, he pitched well enough, but after all the money, all the treatments, all the trials, there has been no stem cell miracle.
(On camera): You spent a long time getting to this very moment, right now.
GRIFFIN: That phone ain't ringing.
NITKOWSKI: No, not yet. But you don't stop. You know and I think there's times where I get, you know, I get a little down, you know, and kind of like you said, what am I doing? You know? Should I really be doing this? Should I be moving on to something a little more responsible? We'll see. It would be sad to me if I didn't get that chance. And so I would hate to go into retirement forced into retirement.
GRIFFIN: Is this it, though?
NITKOWSKI: Oh, yes.
GRIFFIN: C.J, this is the year, this is it?
NITKOWSKI: Oh, absolutely. Yes.
GRIFFIN (voice-over): So far that phone is not ringing.
KAYE: That is such a great story. The question is, though, did the phone ever ring for C.J.?
GRIFFIN: Once. The New York Mets called him down to Florida, had him try out, and they never called back. But he got a different call. This is a different -- a role call, as it were. He's going to be in a movie pitching to a guy portraying Jackie Robinson in a movie that's actually about the guy that signed Jackie Robinson to be a Major League baseball player, a guy named Branch Rickey.
KAYE: And who's going to play Branch Rickey then?
GRIFFIN: Harrison Ford.
KAYE: Oh, big name.
GRIFFIN: Big name, big movie, maybe a big new start for C.J. Nitkowski of a different kind.
KAYE: That's great. Great to hear that.
Well, that is it for tonight's show. I'm Randi Kaye.
GRIFFIN: And I'm Drew Griffin. Thanks for joining us.