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02/25/08 9:22 PM ET

Boone reveals battle with alcohol

With Minors deal, infielder finds peace in sobriety, baseball

VIERA, Fla. -- It was March 1, 2006. Bret Boone was a member of the Mets and expected to battle Kaz Matsui for the starting job at second base. But Boone suddenly retired that day, telling the media that he no longer had fun and his mind wasn't right.

Almost two years later, Boone was wondering if he should ever go public as to why he left the game of baseball abruptly. But on Monday afternoon, Boone broke his silence because he wanted to make sure that kids don't make the same mistake that he made.

Boone, 38, revealed that an alcohol problem was the reason he retired. According to Boone, the problem goes as far back to his peak years with the Mariners, but he happily reports that he hasn't had a drink in seven months.

"I was probably one of those players that every single day of every season, I would at least have a few beers," Boone said. "And I went from that to nothing [now]. I did it not only for myself, but for my family, my kids. I got to a point where I could tell the difference in myself and I wanted to get it before it became an issue."

Boone's problems started in a more subtle matter, but it got to a point where he would drink 12 to 15 beers after a game. At age 32, for example, Boone recalls drinking heavily after a game and then going 3-for-4 the next day. But as he got older, Boone's stats declined and he lost the passion for baseball.

"For me, it was an alcohol thing," Boone said. "It wasn't to the point where I was down and out. But it was to a point where I could see it was going there.

"I don't want to make a big deal about it, but I was at a point where sometimes it was more important to me to go to a hotel bar after a game. At the end, it takes away your passion and everything inside that makes you tick. I'm not proud of it. I'm proud I took care of the situation before it got to a point where it could have."

"I [sought treatment] not only for myself, but for my family, my kids. I got to a point where I could tell the difference in myself and I wanted to get it before it became an issue."
-- Bret Boone

Boone didn't go into rehab until the following summer. He stayed in the facility in San Diego for 26 days. Boone acknowledged that he didn't want to be there at first.

"You are sitting there going, 'I'm Bret Boone. What am I doing here?' That's you initial reaction," Boone said. "But I'm sitting there with big-time successful people, who are having the same issues. It was a personal decision and I'm not embarrassed by it. I'm proud that I did it. I went through it and took the step to cut this thing off."

Boone said that he is not the first member of the Boone family to have drinking problem. His grandfather, Ray, a successful big league player in his own right, had difficulties with alcohol, but Bret said that Ray, who passed away in 2004, was sober the last 40 years of his life.

Bret's father, Bob, who is the Nationals' assistant general manager, declined to comment for this story. All Bob would say is that he is proud of his son for seeking help.

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Now that he is free of alcohol, Bret said that he has the passion to play baseball again. The Nationals gave Boone a Minor League deal to prove that the passion is back. The original plan was to have Boone work with the Minor Leaguers in the accelerated camp, but he reported to work in such great shape that general manager Jim Bowden decided to let Boone play with the Major Leaguers.

So far, everybody has noticed that Boone's bat speed is still there and that he hasn't lost a step with the glove. But Boone admits that the big test will come when the exhibition games begin.

"I know the bat speed is there. It's just a matter of fine-tuning it -- seeing pitches," Boone said. "The defense comes to me pretty easy. I'm not worried about that. It's going to be the hitting and the timing."

Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.