Results tagged ‘ Chipper Jones ’

Most players can’t wait to retire, until they actually do it.

Lance Berkman always thought he'd embrace retirement. Then why is he still playing?

Lance Berkman always thought he’d embrace retirement. Then why is he still playing?

I’m usually skeptical when a player retires from baseball while he’s still producing at a high level, but in Chipper Jones‘ case, I really do believe he means it when he says he’s comfortable with his decision to step away from the game, with no desire to return. I just wonder if he’s going to feel that way in another year.

Jones appears to be a rarity. Most players heed the advice from those who came before them: play until they rip the uniform off of you. Loosely translated, it means play until 1) you can no longer can sustain the stamina or strength needed to be productive and 2) the phone stops ringing. (I once asked a coach who played in the big leagues for 18 years, “What year did you retire?” His answer: “Good players don’t retire. They play until they don’t get asked back.”)

It’s understandable that players start to feel the tug of retirement when they’re older and still active. Major League life seems glamorous, and some parts are. Money, charter flights and first-class hotel accommodations are all part of it. But in truth, after you’re in it for a while, it becomes a grind just like every other job. Time away from the kids starts to get old, and for those who don’t get out much on the road, the travel can be boring.

Still, it’s a good life, and most of the time, it’s a heck of a lot more interesting than anything these players will do in their post-playing careers. Part of the problem is that players don’t really know this until they’ve actually retired.

I was surprised when Andy Pettitte retired a couple of years ago when he seemingly had plenty left in his left arm, and I wasn’t at all shocked when he came back to the Yankees after a year out of the game. Pettitte appeared to have reached the same conclusion as others who are pondering getting out: nothing they will do after their careers end will ever be as fulfilling as playing Major League Baseball. Especially when you’re affiliated with a team that has a legitimate chance to win the World Series every year.

During my years covering the Astros, there were two players who made it very clear at about age 30 that they were looking forward to retiring and had no intention to stretch their careers past the parameters of their current contacts: Lance Berkman and Roy Oswalt.

Berkman was signed through 2010; Oswalt, 2011. Both swore when those commitments ran out, so would they. Berkman was traded to the Yankees in the final year of his contract in ’10, signed on with the Cardinals and won the World Series in ’11. He signed with the Rangers late this past offseason and is talking of playing in 2014, too.

Oswalt held out for an offer from a contender in 2012 and missed half the season but ended up with the Rangers during their stretch run. As of today, he’s unsigned for 2013.

So what happened?

Berkman said he wasn’t necessarily surprised that he felt the tug to keep playing, but acknowledged that talking about retiring is a lot easier than actually doing it. He has always identified himself as a husband, father and devotee to his faith first and a ballplayer last, but the reality is a lot of his identity is indeed wrapped up in what he does for a living. When playing baseball is the only thing you know, it’s a little scary to think of life without it.

Think about it: if a player retires at 40 and lives to a normal life expectancy, he has at least 40 more years to fill. When you’re first starting out, this all seems so far off. But when you’re 36, 37, 38…

“It’s a mental fight,” Berkman said the day before he left for Spring Training. “Is this the right thing to do? You don’t want to sell yourself short. There’s family considerations. There’s all kinds of stuff that goes into the vortex. Your mind is just spinning around and spinning around and you’re trying to make the best decision that you can.”

A big part of who he is, Berkman admitted, is as a Major League Baseball player. “When you don’t have that anymore, how are you going to react to everyday life?” he wondered.

While Berkman does have a list in his mind of things he’d like to do post-career, he also knows he doesn’t necessarily have to start now.

“Even for a guy such as myself who said for years, ‘It’s going to be easy to walk away,’ the reality is, it’s not going to be,” he said. “I don’t want to be too cavalier with that statement. It’s a pretty big thing and a pretty big time in your life. The flip side of that, I am kind of glad that I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. There’s other things other than playing baseball that are intersting to me, and you just don’t have time to pursue those things as a player.”

Jones’ named popped up in the news recently when Yankees GM Brian Cashman expressed interest in seeing if “Larry” — yes, oddly, Cashman referred to Chipper by his real name — would be interested in signing on as a fill-in for the injured Mark Teixeira.

Jones responded by tweeting that he prefers to continue his new life as a bad golfer.

Odds are, he’ll still feel this way next year, too.

Won’t he?

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There was something terribly appropriate about Houston Chronicle TV/Radio columnist David Barron describing a recent honor bestowed upon me as “big”, “huge” and “overwhelming,” considering the subject matter — my hair — has been described as all three (mostly at the same time) for the better part of my adult life.

My goal to not draw attention to myself or my towering inferno (another nickname given to me by a college buddy) ended when Barron inexplicably got on Super-Hair.net’s email distribution list. Now the secret’s out. I am indeed a two-time winner of the prestigious “best curls” category in the annual Crown Awards.

I rehearsed my best fake “Who, me????” while watching Anne Hathaway at the Oscars, just in case the secret was leaked. My acceptance speech involved two people: my great-grandmother Libby Goldman, for passing along the red hair gene, and Juan at Satori Heights Salon in Houston, for finding a way to tame this mess.

Other than that, I’d like to also acknowledge all of the support and encouragement that has come my way as I attempted to make a better life for myself and my hair over the last 30 years.

That means you, strange old man on the elevator when I was touring Ohio University as a high school kid. “I’d rather be dead than red in the head,” you said. You made my 17-year-old heart sing! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

And you, the legions of do-gooders who made sure I knew that I could never be a contestant on “Millionaire Matchmaker” because the host hates two things: 1) red hair; and 2) curly hair. Hopes, crushed. Those sugar daddies don’t know what they’re missing. But thank you for correctly assuming I didn’t know this, and realizing how important it was that I did.

And I couldn’t have made it without YOU, middle-aged, bourbon-guzzling balding sports bar guy with your sage observations: “Spiral perms are stupid.” Hear, hear, my brother. Hear, hear.

Lest we not forget you, weird stammering guy striking up a conversation with, “Yea, uh, my sister has red hair.” Riveting exchange, and something I’ll never forget, especially the awkward silence that followed. So, THANK YOU for that.

And to you, the kid who sat behind me in ninth-grade Algebra and asked if I was “keeping a bird’s nest in there.” Your guidance and concern has helped shape me into the person I am today. XOXOXO.

I’m truly humbled, not only to have finally beaten that pesky Jennifer Beals this time around, but also to be sandwiched between a world-class tennis player and the reigning “It Girl” on the Super-Hair.net web site. Pinch me!

Who knew life could be this grand?

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Astros to unveil their Walk of Fame on Tuesday. First up: Bob Aspromonte.

Original Colt .45s: Bob Lillis (left), Bob Aspromonte, Joey Amalfitano and Al Spangler, 1962.

The Astros are celebrating their 50th anniversary all season, but this Tuesday is especially significant, given it’s the exact anniversary — 50 years to the day — of the very first Major League Baseball game played in Houston.

On April 10, 1962, the Colt .45s took the field at Colt Stadium against the Chicago Cubs and won handily, 11-2. A budding star on that team, Bob Aspromonte, was 3-for-4 in that game. He ended up as a fixture at third base for Houston for seven seasons, and to this day is probably the one player most associated with the original Colt .45s.

It’s only fitting that one of the first players to represent Major League Baseball in Houston will be the first honoree in a season-long celebration of the club’s anniversary. Aspromonte will be everywhere on Tuesday, beginning with the new Astros Walk of Fame, located on the sidewalk on Texas Ave. outside of Minute Maid Park.

Aspromonte will be the first member to officially be inducted to the Walk of Fame. Television announcer Bill Brown will host the induction ceremony, which begins at 3:30 CT and is open to the public. Two of Aspro the Astro’s teammates with the Colt .45s, Larry Dierker and Jimmy Wynn, are also scheduled to be a part of the ceremony, as are Jose Cruz and former Colt .45s/Astros broadcaster Gene Elston.

(The inaugural 2012 Walk of Fame induction class will include all retired-number players as well as Elston and Milo Hamilton. Each month during the 2012 season, a new member will be inducted into the Walk of Fame. They will be honored in order of the decade they played in.)

That night, the Astros will wear the original Colt .45s jersey, which includes the pistol on the front, for the 7:05 p.m. game vs. the Atlanta Braves at Minute Maid Park. Aspromonte will throw out the ceremonial first pitch.

Tuesday is the only flashback event that will not take place on a Friday. Beginning on April 20, all of the nostalgic events will take place on “Flashback Fridays.” Here is the rundown of the rest of the former players scheduled to throw out ceremonial first pitches:

April 20 vs. LAD    Larry Dierker
May 4 vs. STL        Rusty Staub
May 18 vs. TEX        Nolan Ryan
June 1 vs. CIN        J.R. Richard
June 22 vs. CLE        Joe Morgan
July 6 vs. MIL        Jose Cruz
July 27 vs. PIT        Mike Scott
Aug. 10 vs. MIL        Jeff Bagwell
Aug. 17 vs. ARI        Brad Ausmus
Aug. 31 vs. CIN     Shane Reynolds
Sept. 14 vs. PHI    Jeff Kent
Sept. 21 vs. PIT    Craig Biggio

Fans can purchase a special Flashback Friday 14-game flex plan that guarantees a seat for each Flashback Friday night. This special ticket package also includes a free ticket for a 15th game of their choice. Plans are available by calling 1-800-ASTROS2 or visiting Astros.com.

In addition to uniforms, “Flashback Fridays” will also feature special ballpark entertainment and fireworks shows themed to each particular decade. Several additional promotions recognizing the 50th anniversary are scheduled throughout the 2012 season, with a complete listing available at www.astros.com.

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A no-doubt future Hall of Famer will be in Houston in the next few days, and the Astros will give him a respectful salute on Monday before the series opener with the Braves.

Chipper Jones, an 18-year Major League veteran who has played his entire career with the Braves, announced during Spring Training that he will retire following the 2012 season. It’s not often that a player is able to pick when he retires and go out, as they say, on his own terms. It’s even more rare that a player will announce his retirement early enough to give teams time to honor him during his final tour through the league.

More often, you’ll see a player hang on until he simply receives no more contract offers, and then retire because there’s really no other option. Other times, a player will wait until the end of the season to announce that he is finished.

Craig Biggio was one of the few who announced his retirement months in advance of the end of the season. Chipper is another, and this week, he’ll be in Houston with the Braves (albeit on the disabled list).

I know what you’re thinking. You don’t like Chipper much. Hey, I get it. I never liked the guy either, for no other reason than he was really, really good, and he played for a Braves club that consistently demolished my teams both in the regular season and in the playoffs.

Oh, how I once hated the Braves. They were a thorn in the Reds’ side when I still lived in Cincinnati in the mid-90s, and they became an even bigger problem for the Astros when I arrived onto the scene in the latter part of that decade.

Eventually I outgrew my disgust (well, most of it), probably because in 2004 and 2005 the Astros finally figured out a way to bounce them from the playoffs, instead of the other way around, as was the case in 1997. And 1999. And 2001.

As it turns out, there’s plenty to admire about Chipper’s career. His 454 home runs rank third all-time among switch-hitters, behind only Hall of Famers Mickey Mantle and Eddie Murray. His .304 career batting average is second among all switch-hitters, behind Hall of Famer Frankie Frisch. He is the only switch-hitter in Major League history with more than 300 home runs and a career batting average above .300.

Chipper is a seven-time All-Star and played in 11 postseasons, including three World Series. He was part of the Braves team that won it all in 1995.

He will eventually be a first-ballot Hall of Famer, and on Monday, the Astros will salute his fabulous career. The presentation will take place around 10 minutes before the games starts on Monday.

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