Pittsburgh Pirates starting pitcher A.J. Burnett is having the best season of his career and yet when it is over, he will walk away from the sport and forgo what would certainly be another lucrative contract as a free agent this winter.
The 38-year-old Burnett — who has a 2.11 ERA in 18 starts this season and will pitch in his first All-Star game on Tuesday — spoke with ESPN’s “Sunday Night Baseball” crew and explained why his 17th season will be his last despite pitching better than he ever has before. Burnett cites his health, his wife, and his children.
The full quote:
“It’s that time. My wife has done a lot of things. She hasn’t had a summer to herself in a long, long time. My boys are at an age now where I started coaching their basketball team in the winter time and they want me to start coaching others things too. And like I mentioned, the body tells you. I believe I could still pitch for a couple more years but I want to be able to walk away and be active around my kids for couple of years before I start hobbling.”
Burnett will have made $US144.3 million in his career, with his biggest payday coming before the 2009 season when the New York Yankees gave him a huge five-year, $US82.5 million contract. So money is probably no longer an issue.
Still, it is surprising to see a player retire from a sport at their peak. It is one thing to go out on top as a champion who is past their prime, à la John Elway. But it is something else to see a player go out just as they are reaching a potential that has only previously been seen in glimpses.
But at the same time, it is a reminder of just how gruelling the sport of baseball can be, not just on the player, but on the families. It is 162 games in 180 days, with half of those on the road and that is not counting six weeks of spring training and any postseason play if the player is lucky and good enough to get there.
After a while it takes its toll and as Burnett said, it is just time.
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