MLB's oldest player can't relate to today's youth
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (AP) When Rockies closer LaTroy Hawkins was drafted in 1991, Colorado Gold Glove third baseman Nolan Arenado was two months old.
Right-hander Eddie Butler was also still in diapers.
''It's crazy,'' Butler said. ''The guy's got a career that's lasted my life span.''
Now 42 and the oldest player in the majors, Hawkins is preparing for his final season before retirement. He's seen a lot, playing for 10 of 30 teams in the big leagues. He's gone from starter to reliever. His debut came a year after the 1994 strike, and he's lasted through the steroids era to today's game filled with millennials.
''I think we're into the generation where everybody gets a trophy. And those guys are getting to the big leagues now,'' Hawkins said. ''I know I'm going to take some heat about it, but I'm telling you what I know.''
Hawkins may have trouble relating to today's youth, but he can still get them out. The right-hander remains a lean, fit 6-foot-5 and 220 pounds. Hawkins, who announced in December that this would be his final season, saved 23 games a year ago and became the 16th pitcher in major league history to reach 1,000 appearances.
''That was a big goal of mine,'' Hawkins said. ''Just looking at the guys that are on that list. I've never made an All-Star team. I've played in one World Series. There are a lot of things I haven't done in the game. And that's one of the things I have.''
Hawkins was the third-oldest player in baseball a year ago. But then Jason Giambi (44) announced his retirement, while Raul Ibanez (42) is also no longer in the game.
Hawkins, who has 124 career saves, thinks simplicity is the key to his longevity.
''I have nice, easy mechanics,'' Hawkins said. ''I'm not a drop, drive and a screamer. I don't have body parts going everywhere. My mechanics aren't violent.''
Save for shoulder surgery in 2010, Hawkins has stayed healthy since making his major league debut with Minnesota in 1995. It must be because he's a workout freak, right?
''I didn't start working out until 2000,'' Hawkins said. ''Before then all I did was play basketball in the offseason. I was under the impression that if you were in basketball shape, you were in everything-else shape.''
Even his good diet was a relatively recent conversion.
''I started eating healthy probably about '06, maybe?'' Hawkins said ''I was just looking at all the fast foods and started doing research on what causes heart attacks. And just looking around. There's a lot of overweight people in the world.''
Hawkins notices the aches and pains take longer to go away these days. That and the pulls of family are the reasons he'll step away after 2015.
But his arm remains strong. He still throws in the mid-90s, and Rockies manager Walt Weiss plans to make only minimal adjustments to his role as closer.
Hawkins needs 36 appearances to move into the top-10 in MLB history.
''There will be days when I'll just say, `You're not pitching today,' And we'll designate somebody else to finish the game,'' Weiss said. ''There will be days like that. But he's still in tremendous shape. His arm still rebounds very well. So I think he'll be able to go to the post quite a bit.''
Weiss, who remembered savoring his final season as a player, had a chat with Hawkins earlier this week on what to expect in his final go-around.
''Walt told me, `There's going to come a point in the season where you're going to start smelling the hot dogs and popcorn, stuff over the years you've forgotten even exist,''' Hawkins said.
''I'm looking forward to it. That's getting me goosebumps. I hope it doesn't go so fast and it slows down for me and I get a chance to enjoy it.''
NOTES: Weiss hinted it will be important for Wilin Rosario to learn first base with newly acquired Nick Hundley now the starting catcher and Michael McKenry contending for a roster spot. . Weiss believes Rosario, who has been mentioned in trade talks, will be ''serviceable'' at first. . Former Rockies star Larry Walker will again serve as a special instructor toward the end of spring training.