Rather than pack his bags and leave home again, Wade Boggs decided 3,010 career hits were enough.
The Tampa Bay Devil Rays didn't offer the 41-year-old third baseman an opportunity to play for them again next season, so he accepted a chance to move into the front office with duties as an advance scout and evaluator of young talent.
Saying he had been spoiled the last two seasons by being able to live year-round in the area where he grew up, Boggs consulted fellow 3,000-hit club members Robin Yount and George Brett, as well as some current players and friends, before turning to his dad, Win, for some fatherly advice.
"I asked him if I could catch Pete Rose," the career hits leader with 4,256. "He said: `Son, you're not going to be able to play that long.' "
Boggs, the only player to hit a home run for his 3,000th hit, said the conversation on a fishing outing in North Florida essentially sealed his decision.
He considered the possibility of playing a year or two with his fourth major league team, but concluded the future was brighter as an assistant to Devil Rays general manager Chuck LaMar.
"This is all new. I know how to get a hit. I know how to catch a ground ball. I know how to throw a baseball. Those three areas, I've had to master since I was 18 months old," Boggs said at a news conference at Tropicana Field. "At the age of 41, I'm starting something new, different and exciting."
Boggs played 18 seasons in the majors with the Devil Rays, Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees. He became the 23rd player to reach 3,000 hits on Aug. 7, homering off Cleveland's Chris Haney just a half-hour's ride from where he grew up playing Little League ball.
A month after reaching the plateau, the 12-time all-star and two-time gold glove winner had season-ending surgery to repair torn cartilage in his right knee. The Devil Rays faced a deadline Wednesday to exercise a $1 million option on the contract he signed two years ago when he returned home to help Tampa Bay launch an expansion franchise.
He entered discussions with the team last month, thinking he still had a future as a player. But Tampa Bay, wanting to exercise a $250,000 buyout, pushed for him to head in another direction, clearing the way for the team to upgrade at third base through a trade, free agency or younger players within the organization.
"You see so many players who try to hold on and try to stay in the game," Boggs said. "For one reason or another, they were not as fortunate as I was to obtain a World Series ring or something along those lines to allow me to walk away."
Boggs was selected to 12 consecutive All-Star games from 1985-96 the year he finally won a World Series championship with the Yankees. He also was the only player this century with seven straight 200-hit seasons, set an AL rookie record with a .349 average in 1982 and hit .300 better in 15 of his 18 big-league seasons.
He hit .301 with two homers and 29 RBIs in 1999, joining Ty Cobb, Lou Brock and Roberto Clemente all Hall of Famers as players who retired after hitting .300 in their final season.
"It wasn't an easy decision because an athlete can always look in the mirror and say OK, I can still play. Deep down inside, probably I thought I still could," Boggs said. "But why not go out out on top. I've always said: `I'll never embarrass myself in this game."'
Asked to recall the biggest moment in his career, Boggs said there were two that he treasured equally.
"Riding the horse at Yankee Stadium," he said, recalling the World Series celebration following his greatest accomplishment as a member of a team. "And kneeling down and kissing home plate after I hit the home run for the 3,000th hit."
He joked that perhaps the happiest people about his decision to retire were his wife and kids.
"Now we don't have to have chicken everyday," said Boggs, whose pregame ritual included a meal that included chicken before each game.
"It's hard because from the time he graduated from high school we were married and he's been in baseball," said wife, Debbie. "So, it's like the only thing we've known is baseball. That part of it is going to be strange."
Although his new job description is not clearly defined, Devil Rays managing general partner Vince Naimoli said Boggs will not be a figurehead.
"We don't have the luxury to have people on staff who are not going to do anything," Naimoli said. "Everybody's got a job."
Boggs said one of the most appealing aspects of the Devil Rays' offer was the prospect of helping young players and having an impact on the development of what he thinks can be a championship organization.
"That's one of the biggest reasons I felt this was an opportunity I couldn't turn down," he said. "When you have input, you feel like you're a part of it."
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