(AP)Aaron Boone and his brother Bret Boone come from a long line of famous Boone ballplayers. Their father, Bob Boone, won a World Series with the 1980 Phillies. Their grandfather Ray Boone played 13 major-league seasons and won the 1948 World Series with the Cleveland Indians. Combined, the Boones combined for 10 All-Star appearances and, probably, some of the best family softball games in history.
Also known for his pennant-clinching home run against Tim Wakefield in the 2003 ALCS, Aaron Boone finished his 12-year playing career in 2009 and now works as an analyst on television. During the recent All-Star break, he took a few minutes to reminisce with Answer Man.
David Brown: Working for ESPN, is being in the media what you expected it to be?
Aaron Boone: Probably not. Well, some of the things I expected, but it's been a complete learning experience and really a fun experience. Being quite green, entering the business, it's been a neat opportunity to stay involved with the game I love going to major-league parks every week. But it is a job. There's tons of work involved, there's prep involved. It's not just showing up and talking baseball. I think the biggest thing is, in TV, learning how to make a relevant point but doing it in a short amount of time. Baseball is a million shades of gray. Saying something relevant and doing it in short order is the biggest challenge.
DB: What inspired you to get with Subway for the Little League Challenger Division appreciation game?
Aaron Boone: They reached out to me with a phone call several weeks ago and I realized I would be excited to get the opportunity to do something worthwhile with Little Leaguers, something dear to my heart. I've gotten to call Little League games (on TV) the past couple of years and obviously played Little League growing up. It's a really neat cause, so I was glad to do it. I was happy to get a chance to compete against Jared, too.
DB: Everybody knows the biggest home run in your career came against Tim Wakefield. What was the second-coolest home run you ever hit?
ABoone: It also might have been with the Yankees, during the regular season at Baltimore. I had struggled when I first came over at the trade deadline for a couple of weeks. I think it was the top of the ninth inning, and we were down a run and there were runners on base. I'm battling against Jorge Julio, who's the Orioles closer at the time. It gets to 3-2, and he hung a slider and I hit it down the left-field line and I'm watching to see if it goes fair, I see it go fair and I start running around the bases and I feel a big sigh of relief — "Oh, I finally did something."
And then the third base umpire calls it foul. And I knew it was fair. So he signals it foul and I beeline it across the field — just like George Brett and the pine tar game — over to third base and I'm going crazy. Well, they end up getting together and the third base umpire asks the home plate umpire, says "I didn't get a good look. Did you see it?" And they overturn it, so Mike Hargrove the manager of the Orioles comes out and gets kicked out of the game. I've got to go get my helmet and run around the bases. It was a pretty adventurous home run. A big one for me and my team.
DB: That home run you hit against Wakefield was pretty traumatic for Red Sox fans. Did you think of it in terms of franchise curses, or things like, "They're never, ever going to win a World Series"?
ABoone: I knew it was a big moment, but we as players don't really think in those terms. You don't get caught up in that stuff. You understand that it's played between the lines.
DB: What was it like going through your entire career never getting booed? You could always just claim the fans were yelling "Boooooone."
ABoone: Exactly. It was great. I tell people all the time, "Never been booed in my life." Although I usually follow that up with, "You tend to know the difference."
DB: What kind of ballplayer would your six-time great-grandfather Daniel Boone have made?
ABoone: I image that he would have, perhaps, started it all. He would have been a pretty good player. I'd like to think we got some of our Boone ballplayer genes from him.
ABoone: No, but I would often claim that my great-grandpa started that, just to see what kind of reactions I'd get. To see if people would go, "Really?" So, I would claim it, even though my family had nothing to do with it. And, you know what? I don't think I actually ever have tried it.
DB: That day in 1998 when you and your brother Bret, along with the Larkin boys, all played for the Reds infield at the same time ... couldn't your family have adopted Brook Fordyce and the Larkin parents adopted Brett Tomko to make it a clean sweep of brothers?
ABoone: Ha! I guess we probably should have. And why stop there? We could have gone into the outfield and just made it a big family affair. That was a neat day and a really special day for Barry and Stephen because I think it was Stephen's only day in the lineup in the major leagues. I know that was a very special day for Barry, who's going into the Hall of Fame, to play with his brother for a day.
DB: How odd is it that there are so many players from the Reds of the late '90s who are on TV now? You and Barry Larkin and Sean Casey are just a few.
ABoone: It is bizarre. A lot of people in Cincinnati are always asking me about how crazy it is that me and Barry and Sean are all involved in the media. And now, being at ESPN with Barry and getting to work with him from time to time, yeah, I'd say we compare notes. And we're all very good friends so it's convenient to have friends who are close to you able to relate to what you're going through from a job standpoint.
DB: When's the last time you talked to Bret, and what is he doing these days?
ABoone: I talked to Bret last night. He lives in San Diego with four kids and he and Trevor Hoffman coach their son's travel baseball team.
DB: So, between your kids and Bret's kids, will we have yet another generation of Boone in the major leagues?
ABoone: Ha! Well, my son is 6 — so I have no idea there. Bret's daughter is a sophomore in high school and a very good volleyball player, and his oldest son is in eighth grade, will be in eighth grade. He's a very good player, a shortstop. So, it wouldn't surprise me if he carried on the tradition. But no pressure [laughs].
DB: With your family's bloodline, it obviously was meant to be that you and Bret would play baseball. Did either of you guys ever want to go off the path of your father and grandfather? Just rebel and say, "The heck with this baseball thing"?
ABoone: I don't know about destined, but it was definitely something we both wanted to do. I wanted to be an athlete. I played football and basketball through high school as well. I wanted to play whatever sport they let me play. Fortunately, they kept letting me play baseball for a long time and I was able to make a career out of it. I think, naively, in my mind, I would always be a major-league player.
DB: Do you believe a no-hitter can be jinxed on Twitter?
ABoone: Ha! No.
DB: Is "the no-hitter jinx" exclusively for the dugout or field? Or is it even there at all?
ABoone: I don't buy it. I don't buy it at all. It's funny, though. I will tweet something like, during a no-hitter. I'll just come out and say, "This guy's got a no-hitter through five" and the reaction on Twitter will erupt: "Oh, you're jinxing it!" And then other times, I'll be more discreet and say — like the other day — "Bronson Arroyo is doing really well through seven." And then he gave up a hit in the eighth. I think I spoke jinx-free language and he still gave up a hit. But had I said "He's got a no-hitter" and he gave up a hit, they would have blamed me.
DB: Can you teach Aroldis Chapman to do better somersaults?
(AP)ABoone: He needs some help with those. Not only were they not that good of somersaults, but I didn't like it. I didn't find it overly professional. But the form needs a lot of work too.
DB: I saw on Twitter that you went to Haiti? What happened on the trip?
ABoone: I took some time off and went up into the mountains north of Port Au Prince. Worked at an orphanage — my wife is very involved through her church in doing mission trips — and I finally got a chance to go there for a couple of days. It was special for my family. You can still see some of the devastation from the earthquake. One of the things that the earthquake did was shine a light on the need over there. It's a very impoverished nation that really needs a hand.
DB: How close will Derek Jeter get to 4,000 hits?
ABoone: Very. I think he can go past, but do I think he will? Probably not. And the only reason I say that is, I don't think he'll play for another team at this point. It's not going to be a situation with the Yankees, because they're going to be in contention every year, where he can just hang on. He's not just going to move over to first base for the Yankees as a 43-year-old. And I don't think he'll play that way. I think, when he's done being an everyday shortstop, he'll be done playing. If he wanted to hang on to break that record, he could absolutely do it, playing a lesser role with a different team, even. But I don't see that happening. I think he's still got a couple of good years left. So I think he'll get close.
DB: Does the Home Run Thingie at Marlins Park cause seizures?
ABoone: Ha! It could. It's definitely an interesting piece of art. It took me about nine innings to really drink that thing in all the way. I can't imagine hitting a home run and then having dolphins explode, I really can't.
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