Commentary

Pettitte: 'I don't think I'll ever play again'

Lefty's Yankees career appears to be a book whose final chapter has been written

Updated: August 29, 2011, 11:20 AM ET
By Wallace Matthews | ESPNNewYork.com

Andy Pettitte can still freeze you with The Stare. He remembers how to pull the brim of his cap down to his eyebrows, roll his eyes up and fix the man in front of him with the kind of look that tells him to not even think about trying to hit the next pitch.

And his former boss Brian Cashman, who buys players for the New York Yankees, says he has "no doubt" that even after a year out of the game, Pettitte could still be a successful pitcher in Major League Baseball, even in a division as unforgiving as the American League East.

Pettitte admits he misses pitching, misses working out, misses breaking a good sweat every day and misses something that was a part of his life for 17 years, the camaraderie of a big league clubhouse.

But if you think this means that come February, Andy Pettitte will be thinking about ending his self-imposed exile from the game, think again.

"Right now, I don't think I'll ever play again," Pettitte told ESPNNewYork.com on Thursday. "If something changes in my heart and I feel differently, who knows? But I retired to be at home, and I'm absolutely loving it. Whatever today's date is, I can tell you I don't plan on playing again."

If it sounds like Pettitte is leaving the door open a crack, it's possible he is. But that is only because the transition from All-Star pitcher to full-time dad has been as difficult as you would expect it to be for someone who has known no other life since he was a teenager.

Pettitte was in New York on Thursday in his new role as a spokesman and celebrity representative for Weatherproof. Pettitte is the sportswear company's first signing, and while his former teammates were preparing to play the Oakland Athletics at Yankee Stadium, Pettitte was in a lower Manhattan photo studio posing in a variety of items designed to protect people from the kind of weather that was swooping down on New York at that very moment.

Key to the marketing angle is the Pettitte Stare, an expression the photographer asked for on virtually every shot. It is a look instantly recognizable and endlessly intimidating, and if Pettitte ever decides to return to pitching -- and no one is saying he will -- that is one aspect of his game he will not have to work on.

[+] EnlargeAndy Pettitte
Howard Smith/US PresswireAlthough he says he misses the work, Andy Pettitte has settled into life after baseball.

Just about everything else, however, would have to be started up from scratch. "I haven't worked out hardly at all," Pettitte said, despite being right around his playing weight of 235. "I haven't thrown at all. I haven't picked up a baseball in a long time."

Over the summer, Pettitte said, he spent a lot of time coaching his kids' baseball teams, working at his Texas ranch, doing a couple of speaking engagements and playing for his church softball team, on which, to his dismay, he learned he was no more than a line-drive hitter in a league of sluggers.

For the first time in his adult life, he did things that ordinary people take for granted every summer, but for professional ballplayers are a distant rumor, things such as Memorial Day and Fourth of July barbecues.

And just last week, he dragged his family -- wife Laura and four kids ranging from 17 to 10 -- under duress, on a camping trip to Wyoming, where they were forced to endure minus TV, air conditioning and, the horrors, video games.

They wound up loving it and not wanting to leave.

One thing he did not do, he said, was watch a lot of baseball. Not even Yankees games.

"In April, during [little league] baseball season, I was out every night with my kids so I wasn't able to watch at all," Pettitte said. "My kids keep me up to date. They're die-hards."

So removed from his former life was Pettitte that he didn't even see the game in which Derek Jeter collected his 3,000th hit, and four others, including a home run to reach the milestone.

He and Jeter exchanged texts after the game, and Pettitte has spoken occasionally with Mariano Rivera, Jorge Posada, Alex Rodriguez and a couple of others.

But for the most part, "Andy Pettitte: The Yankee Years" appears to be a book whose final chapter has been written.

"I do miss it. I miss pitching," Pettitte said. "I don't think I'll ever not miss the feeling of jogging out to the mound at Yankee Stadium and performing in front of the fans. There's no doubt that when I see a game on TV, it takes me back to what I used to do.

"But it's not my life anymore. When I retired, I retired to be at home with my family, and it's been awesome to be home and be able to basically spend every day that I want to right there with them."

Over the past few weeks, Pettitte said, he has made more of an effort to keep up with his former team, although what he has seen lately has been distressing. He happened to tune in Saturday, when A.J. Burnett got bombed by the Twins and stalked off the mound after apparently directing some angry words toward manager Joe Girardi.

(For the record, Pettitte said he believed Burnett was angry at being removed from the game.)

And Wednesday night, he arrived at his New York hotel just in time to see CC Sabathia give up the go-ahead runs in a game the Yankees wound up losing to the A's when Rafael Soriano surrendered a three-run homer.

Still, he is optimistic about his former team's chances this year. "I still pull for them and wish them the best," Pettitte said. "I hope they win the World Series this year and I think they have a chance to do it. They have a strong club."

Pettitte said he was especially impressed by the work of Bartolo Colon and Freddy Garcia this season. "They've probably gotten more out of them than they thought they might," Pettitte said. "But they've stayed healthy, so I'm not really surprised. These guys are veterans who know how to pitch."

Told that earlier in the day, Cashman had said, "I have no doubt Andy Pettitte could come back and be a successful pitcher for us or anybody else next year," Pettitte rolled his eyes.

"I don't even know how to respond to that," he said. "I don't know if I could or I couldn't. But I have no plans to do that. I haven't talked to the Yankees or anything like that. I would be amazed if that happened."

Pettitte -- who turned 39 in June -- said that kind of a decision would require the kind of serious thought that went into his decision to walk away after a superior, although injury-shortened, season in which he went 11-2 with a 2.70 ERA.

"I put so much time and concentration into making that decision last year," he said. "A decision like that about my life and my future is something I'd have to pray about and spend time thinking about.

"But I'm not thinking of it that way. First of all, there's no opportunity for me to play. No one's calling. I'm retired. For me it's a non-issue."

Still, for a man who has been active his whole life, this new sedentary existence is something that is alien and even uncomfortable.

"I miss working," he said. "I miss sweating. I know eventually I'm going to need to find something to do.

"But right now, it's not baseball."

Wallace Matthews has covered New York sports since 1983 as a reporter, columnist, radio host and TV commentator. He covers the Yankees for ESPNNewYork.com after working for Newsday, the New York Post, the New York Sun and ESPN New York 98.7 FM.
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