PEORIA, Ariz. -- Veteran outfielder Jody Gerut made the decision on Sunday to retire from Major League Baseball, a choice surprising not so much for its impact on the Mariners as for the reasons and eloquent words used to announce his departure.
Gerut walked into the press room at the Mariners' facility about three hours before their Spring Training opener and choked back tears as he read a statement, then spoke from the heart for 15 minutes while answering questions.
"The last three days have been hollow," he said. "I've had a very clear voice in my head saying today, in this condition, you shouldn't be out there. Not in the capacity of a player who quite possibly could be counted on one day by his teammates and by a city. Mentally you need to be there."
2010 Spring Training - Major League Baseball
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Gerut, 33, was one of several players fighting for a backup outfield role with the Mariners after signing as a non-roster invitee. He "had a legitimate shot to make the team," according to general manager Jack Zduriencik and was mentioned a day earlier by manager Eric Wedge as one of the top contenders to back up center fielder Franklin Gutierrez this year.
Gerut would have made $750,000 this season if he'd earned a spot on the 25-man roster, with another potential $400,000 in playing-time incentives.
"Physically, I'm fine," he said. "But mentally my reasons for wanting to be in uniform have become so thin and narrow that I refuse to disrespect the game that has provided so generously for my family by playing it in a half-hearted way.
"It was very clear that my capacity as a player was done, empty, finished."
Gerut said he came to camp 11 days ago with every intention of competing for a job, but realized in the last 3-4 days that his competitive juices were gone.
"There was a sense of apathy that hadn't been there," he said. "And there shouldn't be apathy in this situation because there is opportunity here."
Gerut was in his first training camp with the Mariners. He previously played for Wedge in Cleveland from 2003-05 and said he was glad Wedge and his staff was in place at the end of his career as well.
The Mariners told him if he had a change of heart the door remained open, but he said he didn't think that was going to happen.
"I'm human," he said. "It's possible I could have a change of heart. But I highly doubt it. To me, this is it."
Gerut has a .262 career batting average with 59 home runs and 226 RBIs in 574 games with the Indians, Cubs, Pirates, Padres and Brewers.
The well-spoken veteran said in the end, he just couldn't justify going through the motions in a game that has meant so much to him and his family. He said the idea of playing just for a paycheck "is a notion so distasteful to me it makes me physically sick to my stomach."
Originally drafted by Colorado in the second round in 1998 out of Stanford, Gerut said he's confident he'll have opportunities beyond baseball, or perhaps still in the game in some capacity. And while he will no longer be on the field, he said he'll never forget the impact Major League Baseball has had on his life.
"It defines the word special," he said. "It's greater than any one person. It forces you to find humility because one day, no matter how good you are, you're going to be done."