Spring Training camps are opening in Florida and Arizona. LaTroy Hawkins is at home in Prosper, Texas.After 24 years of participating in baseball's rites of spring, Hawkins will take a 10-day trip to Florida and serve as a guest instructor with the Twins, in the coming week.But it's not a
Spring Training camps are opening in Florida and Arizona. LaTroy Hawkins is at home in Prosper, Texas.
After 24 years of participating in baseball's rites of spring, Hawkins will take a 10-day trip to Florida and serve as a guest instructor with the Twins, in the coming week.
But it's not a job, not like it had been ever since Hawkins turned down a basketball scholarship to Indiana State to sign with the Twins as a seventh-round Draft choice out of West Side High School in Gary, Ind., in June 1991.
After 21 years in the Major Leagues, Hawkins, 43, decided to hang it up after a career in which he appeared in 1,042 games, 10th all-time, and in which he was the oldest player in the Major Leagues for each of the past three seasons.
In this week's Q&A, Hawkins reaffirms he made the right decision in hanging up his spikes.
MLB.com: When did you know you made the right choice?
Hawkins: When (Twins general manager) Terry Ryan called and said, "Are you sure you are done?" I told him, "I am." Someone told me the time to retire is when you don't want to. You don't want to wait until you can't make the decision because everybody else made it for you. It's been harder than I expected. When I saw guys signing as free agents, I started to feel it in my belly, but that's when I knew it was the right thing to do. I still sit at home thinking about baseball. It dominates my thoughts. For 25 years, that's what I've done. I enjoyed every minute of it, so of course I'm going to think about it.
MLB.com: Was it difficult to decide a year ago you were going to retire after last season?
Hawkins: No. I was not being myself. I could still throw 93 (miles per hour), but it was once every day. I was not able to recover like I used to. I realized I was getting old. I was a guy who could go out there, two, three days in a row, and have my stuff, but not anymore. I was starting to feel old. I didn't want to be the guy who the manager would have to call down every day and ask if I was capable to go. If I was going to play, I was going to have to feel like I could go every day. When I would go to Spring Training, the idea was to compete and be better that year than the year before. That wasn't there anymore.
MLB.com: You are, however, not completely cutting ties?
Hawkins: Terry and I talked about what I might want to do. My daughter is a freshman in high school. I want to be able to spend time with her, to make up for all the time I have missed. That's my priority. Terry said I should come down (to Fort Myers) for 10 days and get a feel for how I might be capable to help. So I am going down to the Twins' camp Sunday and staying until March 2.
MLB.com: You went out in style, being traded to Toronto in late July, and being a part of the AL East champions. Did that make you think about coming back for another year?
Hawkins: No. It made it easier (to retire). That was a blessing for me. It sent me out on a good note. I went out with a team that played in October. It would have been better if I could have gone out like Peyton Manning, winning it all, but to finish my career with the excitement of those 90 days in Toronto was a great way to have it end.
MLB.com: What are you going to miss?
Hawkins: Hanging around the clubhouse. The relationships with the other players, the media, the clubhouse guard, the grounds crew, the parking attendant. Those were the people I was around every day, the people that make the game special. I don't know if I will actually miss playing the game. I still love the game. I'll always enjoy the game, but you have to know when it's time.
MLB.com: Did you get the itch at all to get ready to pitch during the offseason?
Hawkins: No. I knew it was time. I went to Brazil during the winter to work with kids down there for the third year in a row. The last two years, I would take my gear and start throwing to get in shape when I was down there. I didn't even take my glove this year. I threw the ball a few times, but I didn't even take my glove.
MLB.com: You said earlier you enjoyed every minute of your 25 years, but after breaking in with the Twins, you signed with the Cubs as a free agent, and it seems you took the heat from disappointed fans. That had to be a challenge.
Hawkins: Jim Hendry (general manager) and Gary Hughes (special assistant) were great guys I got a chance to know. I remember when I was traded to the Giants. Jim said, "LaTroy, good people shouldn't be treated like (the fans) are treating you." I never looked at that as being tough on me. I felt it was a learning experience. I came from Minnesota where everything was hunky dory. Chicago was an eye opener. I learned to deal with that different level. I learned from it. I grew because of it.
MLB.com: And you might eventually come back in a different role?
Hawkins: Sure. I was always told the single greatest thing you can do is when you leave the people still want you to be around. That's how I approached everything I did. I never burned bridges. Everything wasn't perfect, but everything isn't perfect in life.
Tracy Ringolsby is a columnist for MLB.com.