Nats sign Boone to Minor League deal
Second baseman comes out of retirement looking to start
VIERA, Fla. -- The Nationals signed second baseman Bret Boone to a non-guaranteed Minor League contract on Monday, and he will begin working out in the team's Accelerated Development Program for Minor Leaguers on Tuesday.
The move means that the Nationals have three members of the Boone family in the organization. Bret's father, Bob, is the assistant general manager and younger brother, Aaron, is a backup infielder. Bret is also reuniting with Nats general manager Jim Bowden. Boone worked for Bowden when both were with the Reds from 1994-98.
Boone, 38, said he had to convince his father that he was serious about his comeback, and Bob admitted that he is putting his reputation on the line with the signing of his oldest son.
"I told him, 'If you are going to do this, you have to get your mind right and you are going to go full bore. If you can't do it, that fine. If you can, I don't want you to think, God, I could be playing golf at home.' So I wanted to make sure [that last] part was out and I'm pretty convinced that it is," the father said.
Brett Boone is a career .266 hitter with 252 home runs and 1,021 RBIs in 1,780 games spanning 14 seasons with Seattle, Cincinnati, Atlanta, San Diego and Minnesota. His best season was in 2001, when he hit 37 home runs and 141 RBIs with the Mariners.
The last time Boone played a regular-season game was in 2005 with the Twins. The following year, Boone signed with the Mets in hopes of becoming the starting second baseman, but he retired during Spring Training because, he said, he wasn't having fun and his mind wasn't right.
Boone acknowledged that there were off-field problems, and while he didn't mention what they were, he said, "I've been a guy that goes out and has a good time and maybe, at times, I had too good of a time and that catches up to you. [At some point,] you have to look in the mirror and find out where you are going with your life. I took care of some personal business."
However, Boone started to enjoy the game again when the Nationals invited him to teach the Minor Leaguers in the Instructional League last October. He started taking batting practice at the Washington Nationals' Training Complex, and Bob Boone and Bowden noticed that Bret's bat speed and power returned. He then started getting into shape in San Diego, his hometown.
"It just clicked and it worked really good and it got better and better. For me, it's a no-lose situation," Boone said. "There's still something in there. Whether I tapped that or not, that remains to be seen. We'll see that on the field.
"I've already had a long career and played my time, and if I can extend this for a few [more years], I would be very excited about it. There's a lot of unknowns, obviously, for me. But I feel great. The workouts have gone great and it's going to be interesting."
Boone made it clear that he wants to be the starting second baseman and is not willing to stay in the Minor Leagues for a lengthy period of time. That may be hard to do because the Nationals already have competition at middle infield.
For now, Ronnie Belliard and Cristian Guzman are the starting second baseman and shortstop, respectively, but Felipe Lopez could take one of the spots. Bowden acknowledged that the team doesn't need another second baseman.
"Whether it leads to coming back to the form he once had or he gets back to the form where we trade him to somewhere else ... we don't know," Bowden said of Boone. "We'll find out in time. But we are going to give him that opportunity. There's no downside here. This is a non-guaranteed deal."
This is not the first time the Nationals had thoughts about putting Boone in the organization as a player. After he was released by the Twins on July 31, 2005, Washington wanted him as insurance just in case Jose Vidro broke down -- but Boone decided to stay away of the game before signing with the Mets that offseason.
If Boone reaches his goals, it would mark the second year in a row in which a player went to the accelerated program and made it to the big leagues as a starter. Dmitri Young singed a similar deal and ended up being the team's first baseman and winning the Comeback Player of the Year Award.
"I feel like I may have started a trend here," Young said. "Bret wants to get back into the game and he wants to play. You don't need to be in big league camp -- as long as you come out here and play. For Bret, it's more or less to see if he still has it or now."
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.