Sunday, January 20, 2008
A Few Minutes With Aaron Boone
Three times in baseball history--a Grandfather, Father and Son from the same family, have played Major League Baseball. But, there is only One First Time. And that honor goes to The Boone Family. When Aaron Boone's brother, Bret, started his first Major League Game at Baltimore's Camden Yards on August 19th, 1992--The Boone's made Major League History. The Very First Multi-Generational Baseball Playing Family. A short five years later--1997--the younger Aaron made his debut in Cincinnati--adding to the family's baseball pedigree. Ironically--Bret was also then playing for The Reds at that time. In fact, just one year later, baseball history again came The Boone's way--when on September 27, 1998--Aaron & Bret combined with Barry & Stephen Larkin to form the first All-Brothers Infield in Major League History.
When your Grandfather, Ray, was a Two Time All-Star and Major League Baseball Player for 13 Seasons; when your Father ended his 19 Year playing career with a World Series Ring, Seven Gold Gloves and the then Baseball Record for games caught (now surpassed by Carlton Fisk); and when your brother just precedes you to The Majors--a few lifetimes of baseball experiences to draw from--have got to be cherished--on the field. But today--One All Star Selection, One Famous Home Run and 10 seasons into his Big League Career--Aaron finds himself at a crossroads in his Professional Life. A serious knee injury after that 2003 season (playing basketball)--curtailed his playing time. Missing the entire 2004 campaign--Aaron eventually joined The Cleveland Indians in an attempt to resurrect his career. Like most players returning from major knee surgery--there have been bumps in the road. Now--at the age of 35 (this coming March 9th)--Boone finds himself as a role player for Our Washington Nationals--signed by Our General Manager Jim Bowden as bench strength for Our Manager--Manny Acta. But, once again--this Boone finds another Boone again by his side. Aaron's Father is the Assistant General Manager, Vice-President Of Player Development for Our Washington Nationals. One of Our GM's most trusted aides.
Last week--I caught up with Aaron at The DC Convention Center during the first stop of The Winter Tour. He was very engaging. And he surprised me when--while attempting to introduce Sohna--Aaron stated: "Sohna and I have already met (smiling)." Apparently, Team President Stan Kasten had done the honors--while I was talking with Charlie Slowes. It was funny.
After signing Autographs for fans in attendance--Our New Number 8--was kind enough to give me a few minutes of his time.
With the preamble out of the way--here we go.
What is it like coming to a team that your Dad is a part of? (SBF)
“It is something I am accustomed to. In this case—I am coming here (DC) and he is already here. Honestly, it’s not a big deal. Other than off the field—it will mean I will get to see my mom and dad a little more. As for the on the field stuff, since he has responsibilities different from others in the organization—it will have no effect on me.”
By coming to Washington—what are you hoping to accomplish here—at this point in your career? Where are you at in your career? (SBF)
“I don’t know!!” (Chuckling). I am year to year. (Both of us laughing). You know what—I am excited. This (Washington) is an up and coming team and franchise. DC is now a baseball city with a new stadium. And it’s a team I am very familiar with, from the player’s standpoint. So many of these guys I have played with, been teammates with, friends with—so I feel this is a natural fit for me. Hopefully, I will be healthy and can contribute to us winning a lot of games—making a lot of noise in this division. Because, I believe this is a very winnable division and league for that matter.”
What can Manny Acta count on from you this spring? (SBF)
(Pausing—thinking) “Hopefully, Manny will be counting on someone he knows he can put in there in a lot of different spots—in a lot of different situations. He should know--he has good players behind a lot of very good guys (the starters).”
How many At-Bats are you hoping to get this year? (SBF)
“Really, you never know. You never know going into a season who will be healthy—and ultimately—what your role is. So, you never really know (until the season plays out). And frankly, it doesn’t really matter that much to me. My goal is to be a part of a very good baseball team.”
Are you healthy right now? (SBF)
“Almost.” (Almost? —SBF) “Yeah.” (Laughing)
What needs to be fixed up right now? (SBF)
“I had minor surgery in September (arthroscopic right knee) and our goal going into the off season—with several weeks for recovery—was to ramp up and hit my stride in the middle or late part of February. All things are going well right now.”
Washington is a younger team in many respects. What kind of veteran leadership can you add to the clubhouse?
“I get asked that question a lot actually. I don’t go in (to the clubhouse) and say I have to act a certain way, affect this guy, or lead in that way. I attempt to be the best player I can be. Hopefully, me being myself will be a good thing for this team. If that affects other players in a positive way--fine. But, I don’t try to be a certain type of guy. I just try to be myself. At the end the day—hopefully—that’s a good thing.”
You may well have had other choices to play in 2008, was Washington Number One on your list? (SBF)
“I don’t know if I necessarily had a list. This was a natural fit because last year was my first year playing in a role player situation (in Florida for The Marlins)—where I wasn’t the every day third baseman. I was a utility player—so to speak. It was something I felt like I could do. In fact, I enjoyed it and had some success. This season I am in The National League East again—a division I am familiar with. That helps. And as I said—there are many players on this team I am friends with or played with—so yeah—this was a natural fit.”
How tough was it for you to go from an everyday player to a role player? (SBF)
“I have had a very blessed career. I have had ups, downs and injuries. But, I have had a very blessed career. Going into last season—I had no expectations—because it was a different role completely. But, I found out last year, I could do it. And, more importantly—I ENJOYED DOING IT. We (players) all want to play every day—but this is a role I know I can do well—and enjoy.”
With that answer my time was up--as Aaron needed to head off for further interviews.
At The DC Convention Center last weekend--no one could miss the fact that whenever ANY Fan approached Aaron--Boone was engaged in the conversation or chat. During the batting and fielding demonstrations--he was very hands on. Never did his attention turn away from someone speaking to him. Now--I don't know how well Aaron Boone will fare as a member of Our Washington Nationals in 2008--but he wins high points for first impressions--with his character. Maybe that's demeanor developed from his long and now well known--baseball family history.
If healthy--Aaron Boone could be a multi-dimensional bench player for Manny Acta. A player that accepts his role. A player Our Washington Nationals really have not had over the first three seasons since baseball's return to Washington. That's a good thing.