By MARK HUNTER
Daily News Sports Reporter
Tyson Gillies can finally get back to baseball.
Gillies, a 21-year-old outfielder in the Philadelphia Phillies' system, learned Friday that the Florida State attorney's office in Pinellas County has dropped a cocaine possession charge against him. Gillies was arrested on June 11 in Clearwater, Fla., and charged on Aug. 20.
Kevin Hayslett, Gillies' lawyer, said Friday that the state looked at the evidence and decided not to proceed with the case against Gillies.
“I'm glad that this ordeal is over,” said Gillies, a Kamloops Minor Baseball product, from Clearwater. “But I'm still very upset that it happened to me and that my character, which I've worked so hard to build, can even be questioned.”
Gillies started the season in Reading, Pa., playing for the Phillies' double-A Eastern League affiliate. He injured his left hamstring in May, and was on a rehab assignment in Clearwater when the incident happened on June 11.
According to the Pinellas County Sheriff's Department, an officer found Gillies, who had been in a bar, trying to flag down a car by waving his shirt. The officer offered to give Gillies a ride back to his hotel, which Gillies accepted.
After dropping off Gillies at the hotel, the officer found a small bag of white powder on the floor near the backseat, which a test confirmed to be cocaine. Gillies was arrested and charged with one count of possession of cocaine on Aug. 20.
Hayslett entered a not guilty plea on Gillies' behalf in the Sixth Judicial Circuit Court of Florida in early September.
Hayslett said he also introduced to the state attorney's office evidence in the case, including “a drug screen that was done within hours of the incident that showed that (Gillies) clearly had no drugs at all in his system.”
“All the screens and all the evidence they had showed that he did not possess or consume or ingest any narcotics,” Hayslett told The Daily News. “Upon their investigation, after they had the benefit of the evidence that I was in possession of, they determined to drop all charges and basically vindicate Tyson.”
“I was drug tested five hours after the incident happened and it had obviously come back negative,” Gillies added. “I know who I am and what I'm about as a person and was stunned (with) the things I had to go through. (I want) to thank my family, friends and the Phillies for their support and being behind me since Day 1. My attorney, Kevin Hayslett, did a fine job; he believed in me.”
Gillies is hoping to use the whole situation as a learning experience.
“If there's one big thing that I take from this, it's to be more aware of the situations I put myself in in the future,” he said.
With this behind him, Gillies is looking forward to preparing for spring training.
The 2010 season was a drag for Gillies, who was traded in the offseason from the Seattle Mariners to Philadelphia as part of a blockbuster that included star left-hander Cliff Lee.
After going to spring training with the Phillies, Gillies was assigned to Reading, where he appeared in 26 games. He ended with a .238 batting average, two home runs, six RBI and two stolen bases.
He injured the hamstring in May, and eventually had to go to Clearwater for rehab. The hamstring now is fine, according to Gillies, and surgery - which was a possibility during the summer - is not needed.
“The hamstring and the leg feel really good,” said Gillies, who stands 6-foot-2 and weighs 213 pounds. “I'm doing pretty much everything right now besides playing in games. I'm good to go.”
Gillies is scheduled to head back to Canada next week, where he'll spend the winter working out in West Vancouver with running coach Brian Hoddle, who is based in the Pacific Northwest.
“I think it will be really good for preparation with my hamstrings, or anything,” he said. “With my legs, everything's so important. My legs are my life and that's the gift I've been given - it's a big part of my baseball.”