Lowell has no regrets
He’s at peace with decision to retire
There will be days when Mike Lowell will miss it.
There will be days, he knows, when his muscles will twitch and remember, when his former teammates will be readying themselves for the 2011 season, when he will be sitting at home in Miami with no spring training reporting date.
And then there will be the other days, when he sits in the stands at a baseball game with his 5-year-old son, Anthony. He will point out what is happening and why it is happening, developing the baseball intellect of yet another generation of Lowells. He remembers his father, Carl, a pitcher for the Puerto Rican national team, spending that time with him, explaining things, analyzing, and he wants to pass that down.
He will now have plenty of time for his son, for his daughter, for his wife, plenty of time now that baseball won’t consume his days for the first time in about as long as he can remember. And yet, this is not the end for him. As Lowell heads into the final days of his career, which will come to an end tomorrow, after today’s “Thanks, Mike Night’’ at Fenway Park, he already knows that the game will remain in his life, in multiple ways.
“I enjoy baseball way too much just to say I’m done,’’ Lowell said, reflecting earlier this week in the dugout at U.S. Cellular Field in Chicago on his 13 years in the majors with the Yankees, Marlins, and Red Sox. “It’s been way too big a part of my life. Since I was 6 years old, it’s the thing I’ve enjoyed most in my life year after year. I’m just going to stop cold turkey? I think that’s a little much.’’
That future, though, is in the distance. The final weeks of his season have been more about the past, as he has been asked over and over about his accomplishments, his place in the game. There have been successes, far more than Lowell ever imagined as a 20th-round draft pick by the Yankees out of Florida International in 1995.
“Was it a dream of mine? Was it a goal? Yeah, but to say that I’m 12 full seasons and part of a 13th, if someone said that they would have predicted that for me, I think they’re lying,’’ said Lowell. “So in that sense, I feel very happy. I feel spoiled that I had the career that I had. I can honestly say I don’t regret anything that’s happened to me, and I’ve enjoyed so much more all the good times that I’ve had through baseball. It’s been great.’’
However, his career has not always been easy. He beat cancer and suffered through hip surgery and diminished playing time.
Yet he maintained his professional approach and appreciated every moment, such as a compliment he received from Brooks Robinson.
That, Lowell said, stands out as much as being named World Series MVP in 2007, as much as when he homered in the ninth inning against the Sox in 2003 as a member of the Marlins, a game that started the momentum toward Florida’s World Series title that season. It was after the 2007 season that Lowell got a call from Sox radio broadcaster Joe Castiglione, who had worked with Robinson at a fantasy camp.
“He says, ‘Do you know that Brooks Robinson said he really likes the way you play third base?’ ’’ Lowell said. “Something like that is very meaningful to me because I think he’s the standard and if he feels like you did it the right way, I can’t ask for a better compliment than that. If the best person who ever played [third] can appreciate it, I really feel like I did it the right way.’’
Lowell got rewarded for that, with respect from his teammates, with tens of millions of dollars. It’s hard to forget Jason Varitek holding up a handmade sign that read, “Re-sign Lowell’’ during the Sox’ victory parade after their World Series championship in ’07.
“Since he’s been here, he’s been one of our clutch hitters, puts on good at-bats, professional hitter with an amazing glove at third,’’ Varitek said. “His hands have always been like butter. I think of Mikey as a good teammate, a very good ballplayer. For his years here, he was one of our clutchest hitters.’’
No longer, and that’s the rub. His body betrayed him starting in 2008, not long after the Sox re-signed him to a three-year, $37.5 million deal after a career year in 2007. He suffered through the season, pain evident in all he did. Hip surgery followed, as his teammates were finishing their postseason run. He returned in 2009, slowed and affected, and also dealt with a thumb injury at the end of the year.
He was dealt to Texas in the offseason, a trade that was voided after he failed his physical with the Rangers, and the relationship with the Red Sox never seemed to recover.
“I’m pretty much at peace,’’ Lowell said. “If anything, this is the year where I feel my hip was, it just got to the point where it’s exhausting. I feel it in batting practice where I just notice that drive. So I might be fooling myself, maybe this is coming at a good time. I might be fooling myself that I can do what I did before my hip on a full-time basis.
“And I really didn’t enjoy being a platoon player. Maybe it’s the mentality that I’m not used to. I felt like my strength was if I didn’t have a good day, I was able to make adjustments. When you don’t play six, seven days, that’s why the job is tough, you’re almost starting from scratch. I had no information to make my adjustments on and that was hard for me. So maybe it’s just working out for the best in that sense.’’
Perhaps he’ll hit another home run this weekend, or perhaps his homer Wednesday against the White Sox (No. 223 of his career, 80th with Boston) will stand as his last, the ball lost to the crowd. Whatever happens in his final weekend, Lowell is satisfied, with what he’s done, what he’s given, what he’s received.
“I’m making a decision for my life, not my decision as a baseball player,’’ Lowell said. “It wasn’t ideal for me [this year]. I don’t think it defines me and it doesn’t really bother me in the sense of that this is my last year. I guess for the story it would have been better if my last year was ’07 and this year was really ’07. But I can’t do that. It’s fine. I’m not stressed out about it.
“I think the feeling that I have more than anything is I feel very at peace, and very sure in my decision. That’s good. I wasn’t sure I was going to have those feelings.’’
Amalie Benjamin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.