Hall of Famer Biggio back with Astros as spring instructor

KISSIMMEE, Fla. (AP) Craig Biggio showed up in the same uniform he has worn for almost 30 years, more than half the span of the Houston Astros' existence. Only this time there was a Hall of Famer in it.

''I don't view myself any differently just because I'm in the Hall of Fame,'' Biggio said Monday at the start of his four-day visit to spring training as a special assistant to general manager Jeff Luhnow. ''I've always been proud to wear this uniform and honored just to be able to wear a big league uniform.''

After a 20-year major league career, all with the Astros, the 49-year-old Biggio was elected to the Hall of Fame in January along with Pedro Martinez, Randy Johnson and John Smoltz. Biggio's induction as the only non-pitcher in the class will be appropriate, since it was an unusual position switch that distinguished his career and might have pushed him over the top as a Hall of Famer.

After he had established himself as a catcher, the Astros moved him to second base in 1992.

''I just came off being an All-Star year as a catcher, and then all of a sudden they're asking you to play a position you've never played in your life before. It could have been catastrophic,'' he recalled. ''And about 90 percent of the experts said it would never work because it was never done in the history of the game. I took that as fuel and motivation to prove `em all wrong, and I had a great coach in Matt Galante; if it wasn't for him I wouldn't be in the Hall of Fame. We worked countless hours and hours.''

Every hour came with the Astros, another distinguishing mark for Biggio.

''In the era that I did it in, it got harder and harder because of the way the dollars are,'' he said. ''A lot of times guys want to stay with one organization but the organization doesn't want you to, or sometimes players make choices to move on. But to be able to do it for 20 years. ... I've been nothing but loyal to this city and organization, but then so was (former owner) Drayton McLane and the front office, who were able to make it work. Both of us take a lot of pride in that.''

Biggio was elected to the Hall of Fame in his third year of eligibility. He will become the first player to go in as a Houston Astro.

Jeff Bagwell, his Astros teammate for 15 seasons, came up short again in his fifth year of eligibility. Bagwell, whose power numbers were accumulated during the steroid era, said last week he does not expect to get elected.

''He worked hard, he played hard and he was never accused of anything,'' Biggio said. ''He's a Hall of Famer to me.''

Bagwell said he will go to Cooperstown on July 26 to honor Biggio, Houston's career leader in games, at-bats, hits, runs, doubles, extra-base hits and total bases.

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