TAMPA, Fla. -- The statistical achievements have accumulated throughout CC Sabathia's meritorious career, but he has never seemed interested in studying the back of his baseball card. Through 18 seasons in the big leagues, the big left-hander's main objective has been to serve as a positive influence for the teams
TAMPA, Fla. -- The statistical achievements have accumulated throughout CC Sabathia's meritorious career, but he has never seemed interested in studying the back of his baseball card. Through 18 seasons in the big leagues, the big left-hander's main objective has been to serve as a positive influence for the teams that he has pitched for.
As the other members of the Yankees' roster filtered into a pavilion outside George M. Steinbrenner Field, filling six rows of seats in support of the hurler's big announcement, it was clear that Sabathia has achieved that and much more. The 38-year-old formally confirmed on Saturday afternoon that he plans to retire at the conclusion of the 2019 season.
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"All I ever wanted for people to remember me was as a good teammate," said Sabathia. "I look forward to 2019 being a championship season for us, and I'm going to give everything I have and leave it out on the field."
Flanked by his wife, Amber, and three of their four children, Sabathia thanked his family, his mother Margie, the Steinbrenner family, general manager Brian Cashman and teammates past and present for their help in achieving his dreams.
"CC has been a great ambassador for our game and we are proud that he has represented our organization for the past decade," said Yankees managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner. "CC has always been a pillar in our clubhouse, and we look forward to him further cementing his impressive legacy this season and contributing to our championship goals."
A six-time All-Star who won the 2007 American League Cy Young Award with the Indians, carried the Brewers to the '08 postseason and hoisted the '09 World Series trophy with the Yankees, Sabathia will enter his final campaign with a 246-153 (.617) record. He stands 14 strikeouts shy of becoming the 17th member of baseball's 3,000-strikeout club.
"I think he's a Hall of Famer," Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. "I think the years of dominance, the years of being completely relevant, 18 years in and still being a really good pitcher in this league. To have racked up the numbers that he has, I think he is a Hall of Famer, and I think he will get in."
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Sabathia was 9-7 with a 3.65 ERA in 29 starts last season, and he made his decision to retire early in the offseason, telling agent Kyle Thousand that there was only one team he wanted to play for. Sabathia is recovering from arthroscopic surgery on his right knee, the third straight year he has required a cleanup, as well as an angioplasty performed in December.
"Why now? It's time," Sabathia said, with a laugh. "My knee, just the shape that it's in. My kids are getting older. It's time for me to be with them and be around them. My oldest son [Carsten] couldn't be here, because he's playing high school sports. There's a lot of stuff that I'm missing."
Sabathia said that he is looking forward to driving the family minivan and shuttling the kids to activities, offering a helping hand to his wife.
"I have been cheering for him for 22 years -- Kingston and Akron, all that stuff," Amber Sabathia said. "We've been cheering for so many years, so I'm excited for him to cheer for us. I run, so he can be at the finish line for me and he can go to Carter's basketball games all the time and not miss any of the girls' dance recitals. He can just cheer us on for a little bit."
Sabathia's announcement elicited messages of congratulations from a who's-who of the sports world. Derek Jeter said that Sabathia "embodies what it means to be a professional athlete," while Jorge Posada said that Sabathia "was perfect in big games and even more perfect in being there for his teammates."
Andy Pettitte, Joe Girardi and A.J. Burnett offered laudatory statements, as did Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr, rap/hip-hop artist Fat Joe, mayor Bob Sampayan of Vallejo, Calif., former Indians teammate Jim Thome and former NFL star Tiki Barber. Sabathia said he'd look forward to reading them, and he hoped that he would not cry.
Also chiming in was LeBron James, the Lakers forward and four-time NBA Most Valuable Player Award winner, whom Sabathia befriended during their time as Cleveland icons.
"I want to congratulate CC on an incredible Major League career," James said. "Not only is he one of the best pitchers to ever play the game, but he'll also go down as one of the great competitors to ever pick up a baseball. His genuine love of the game and his undeniable passion have brought so much joy to fans for 19 seasons. It's been an honor to watch him play and I'm excited to see what he'll take on next. Congrats, my friend."
Borrowing a page from Mariano Rivera, whose 2013 retirement became a source of league-wide celebration, Sabathia plans to give back this summer. When Sabathia makes his final visit to each American League city (plus San Francisco), his PitCCh In Foundation will host 52 members of the Boys & Girls Clubs, which he said was instrumental in helping him reach the Majors.
"CC believes that if it wasn't for the Club, he wouldn't be here today," Amber Sabathia said. "This last year, we really want to be impactful and give back. To be able to do that in every city, we feel like it's a great way for CC to leave his legacy."
The last of those outings is set for Sept. 27 in Arlington, but Sabathia hopes that he will remain busy for about a month more. The perfect conclusion to bookend his time with the Yankees, he said, would be another parade through the Canyon of Heroes -- just as he enjoyed in Fall 2009.
"It's been a great ride," Sabathia said. "Being able to win the World Series, open up the new Stadium, there's just so many countless different memories that I have and can take back with me throughout the years of being a Yankee. It's been great."
Bryan Hoch has covered the Yankees for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and on Facebook.