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Win­nipeg’s sea­soned vet­eran and home-run king Abercrombie talk­ing re­tire­ment

Winnipeg Sun - - SPORTS - PAUL FRIESEN

Win­nipeg Gold­eyes vet­eran Reg­gie Abercrombie was told he couldn’t play a base­ball game, Satur­day, be­cause of the rain.

The 37-year-old vows when his ca­reer ends, it’s go­ing to be on his terms, not some­body else’s.

The long­est-serv­ing mem­ber of the team says he’s pegged the day he rides off into the Man­i­toba sun­set.

“I’m go­ing to give it one more (year),” Abercrombie said, be­fore Game 3 of the Amer­i­can As­so­ci­a­tion fi­nal was post­poned. “Next year, I’m go­ing to be done. I’ll just walk away.”

Now, Abercrombie has hinted at re­tire­ment be­fore. And things can al­ways hap­pen to change a man’s mind.

But the slug­ger sounded dead-sure of him­self.

“I don’t want to be that guy to wake up one morn­ing hit­ting .201, or some­thing, hit­ting one home run and strik­ing out all the time,” he said. “I strike out any­way, but you know what I’m say­ing. I don’t want to be that guy that peo­ple can see my tal­ent de­te­ri­o­rate.”

One of four Gold­eyes to play all 100 games this sea­son, Abercrombie still has some­thing in the tank, hit­ting .272 with 19 home runs and 66 RBI this sea­son.

He be­came the AA’s all-time home-run king last sea­son, its ca­reer RBI leader this year.

And he still has a flair for the dra­matic, two homers and seven RBI in the de­cid­ing game of last year’s fi­nal and two homers in Game 2 of this year’s fi­nal just two ex­am­ples.

But when he walks, he’ll leave a hole that’ll take more than sta­tis­tics to fill.

Team­mates call him the heart­beat of the club.

“It’s great to be on his team and ex­pe­ri­ence the way he ex­plains base­ball,” first base­man David Ber­gin, Abercrombie’s room­mate, said. “He’s a huge mo­ti­va­tor, too.”

Take last year’s play­offs, when the Gold­eyes came from be­hind in both se­ries to win it all.

“He was the guy who gave us the speeches, ral­lied us be­fore the game,” pitcher Ed­win Carl said. “It was al­most like a movie speech. That fired us up. He’d do good in a role where he’d have to do a lit­tle foot-

ball locker-room pep-talk. Any Given Sun­day, or Fri­day Night Lights, kind of thing.

“Hav­ing a chance to win back to back, he al­ways com­pares it to Michael Jor­dan win­ning a bunch of rings. He’s pretty pas­sion­ate about win­ning this year.”

Ask Abercrombie about his speeches, and he’ll tell you he goes deeper than base­ball to ap­peal to some­thing within his team­mates.

“There’s more things be­sides base­ball,” he ex­plained. “You have peo­ple dy­ing for our coun­try. You’ve got peo­ple stand­ing up for their rights. Life won’t be over if you’re done base­ball.”

Then he hits them where they’ll feel it.

“It’s mak­ing you re­al­ize how short is your time play­ing base­ball. You’ve got to grasp that mo­ment, now. And if you don’t grasp that mo­ment now, it could be your last mo­ment.

“You don’t want to look back and be, like, ‘Damn, I could have had a cham­pi­onship.’ ”

Abercrombie uses a sim­i­lar ap­proach in pick­ing up new team­mates who might be feel­ing sorry for them­selves about join­ing the Gold­eyes.

“I try to be like Papa Bear,” he said. “Some of these cats come here and just got off af­fil­i­ated ball and they feel like in­de­pen­dent ball is not where it’s at. I tell them ev­ery day, don’t look back.

“When we become some­thing else in life, you want to be a doc­tor or lawyer or a cop or what­ever, you’re go­ing to look back and say, ‘Damn, I won a cham­pi­onship.’ If you become a win­ner here and you know how it is to be suc­cess­ful in base­ball, you can go out there and be suc­cess­ful in life.”

Abercrombie knows be­cause he’s been there.

Af­ter three sea­sons play­ing in the ma­jors (200608), he used to lament the fact he was out, and lesser play­ers were in.

His mother, a re­li­gious woman, helped him re­al­ize that sim­ply wasn’t the plan for him.

“When you’re young it’s hard to un­der­stand that,” Abercrombie said. “But when you get older... it’s like, ‘Maybe you were right, Ma.’ Some peo­ple are meant to be rich, some are meant to be blue-col­lar, some are meant to be poor. It’s how happy you are. Right now I’m happy. If I got a lit­tle money or a lot of money, I’m go­ing to be happy.

“You never know how happy I would be if I had mil­lions. Ex­cuse my French, but I could be an a--hole but have money.”

In­stead, he’s the most team’s beloved “goof­ball,” to quote his room­mate.

“He still re­minds me of a 21-year-old,” Ber­gin ex­plained.

“It’s a game... you don’t want to be al­ways se­ri­ous and re­ally wor­ried about the next thing all the time. He re­ally brings that fun and a laugh­ter to the game.” For one more year, at least. “One day,” Abercrombie said.

“I can look back and say, ‘I did it all, and I’m done.’ ”

KEVIN KING/WIN­NIPEG SUN

Gold­eyes’ slug­ger Reg­gie Abercrombie (right) says he’s go­ing to play one more year and then “walk away.”

KEVIN KING/WIN­NIPEG SUN

Team­mates call Reg­gie Abercrombie the heart­beat of the Win­nipeg Gold­eyes club. “I try to be like Papa Bear,” he said.

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