Retiring: Kent calls it quits after 17 years

Published 12:00 am Thursday, January 22, 2009

Associated Press
LOS ANGELES ó Jeff Kent always kept his emotions bottled up during his outstanding, 17-year major league career. He couldn’t put a cork on them Thursday, when he tearfully announced his retirement.
His watery, red-rimmed eyes and frequent pauses to collect himself were in stark contrast to the gruff public demeanor Kent maintained for years, which led to his image as a surly sort.
He attributed that to his competitive nature.
“I don’t get how you can go up to an opposing starting pitcher, give him a hug and say, `How you doing?’ and then go out there and try to hit a gapper,” Kent said. “I tried to separate the emotions from the game.
“If you allow yourself as a player to get emotionally involved in every little thing that happens, I don’t think you can stay as consistent as you ought to in this game. I wanted other people to perceive me as a guy who was level emotionally.”
But that facade came undone during a farewell news conference at Dodger Stadium, especially when Kent looked over at his wife, Dana, daughter Lauren, and three young sons. His 12-year-old daughter wiped her eyes at times.
“We’re glad to see him home,” Dana Kent said.
At 40, retirement beckoned because Kent said he’d grown tired of life on the road and being away from his family in Austin, Texas, for much of the year.
Kent leaves as the career home run leader among second basemen with 351 ó 74 more than Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg. A five-time All-Star and the 2000 NL MVP, Kent made his only World Series appearance with San Francisco in 2002, when the Giants lost to the Anaheim Angels in seven games.
“Being a Game 7 loser is the worst feeling that I’ve ever had as an athlete, but the participation in those games and being able to play alongside my teammates have put to peace any resentment of not being a World Series winner,” he said. “I’m OK with it.”
Kent had a .290 career batting average with 377 homers, 1,518 RBIs and a .500 slugging percentage. He was drafted by Toronto in 1989 and also played for the New York Mets, Cleveland, San Francisco and Houston.
“Half of my playing career I was able to get on a team and then make the playoffs, and what a special feeling that is to be part of,” he said. “The reasons why I was able to do such things is because of my teammates.”
Former Dodgers shortstop Jose Vizcaino stopped by to wish Kent well, along with team owner Frank McCourt, general manager Ned Colletti, former Dodger greats Duke Snider and Don Newcombe, and much of the team’s front-office staff.