At 42 years old, LaTroy Hawkins is the oldest and most tenured player in Major League Baseball. He was drafted by the Minnesota Twins in 1991 and made his MLB debut with them in 1995. Hawkins has played for ten different teams in his Major League career and has appeared in exactly 1,000 MLB games, good for 16th on the all time list for pitchers. He played on the 2007 Rockies team that went to the World Series and returned to the team in 2014 where he had 4-3 record with a 3.31 ERA and 23 saves as the closer. The CUI’s Justin Guerriero sat down with him to talk about his career and plans for the future.
Justin Guerriero: How does it feel to be the most tenured player in the MLB?
LaTroy Hawkins: I feel the same way that I did last year when I wasn’t. I don’t feel any different. It’s a cool honor to have, I guess.
JG: Is it kind of like being 17 and turning 18; there’s almost like an asterisk next to it but it doesn’t feel any different?
Hawkins: It’s like being 20 and finally turning 21, I guess.
JG: Do you remember who the oldest player in the league was when you were a rookie?
Hawkins: Nope. In ‘95, I don’t remember. That’s a pretty good question, though. We’ll have to find that out.
(I did find that out. It was Dave Winfield of the Cleveland Indians. He was 43 during the 1995 season.)
JG: Has time flied for you? Is it hard to grasp that you’ve been in the MLB for so long?
Hawkins: Yeah. For sure. I always tell people that it really doesn’t seem like 25 years. I guess time flies when you’re having fun. I’ve had a lot of fun.
JG: Throughout your career, you’ve been cheered, booed, you’ve had to fight for roster spots, you’ve signed multi-year contracts. It’s kind of been like a circle of life that you’ve experienced in professional baseball. What has it taught you.
Hawkins: I wouldn’t change one second. I think failure is definitely your biggest teacher. And starting off, coming to the big leagues as a starter, I didn’t fare too well. But you know what, that’s probably the best thing that could have happened to me in my career. It taught me a lot about myself, and not giving up, persevering. I had a manager named Tom Kelly (who managed the Twins from 1986-2001) that believed in me and told me “You’re gonna figure it out, it’s just gonna take a little time. Keep working and you’ll be in the big leagues, you stop working I’m getting your ass out of here” he told me. So, that helped me fit in; just getting in the bullpen and finding my niche in the big leagues, and being able to go out there and give all I got for one or two innings.
JG: Do you have a favorite memory of your career?
Hawkins: Oh man, I got a lot. Paul Molitor’s 3000th hit, Eric Milton’s no hitter, the first no hitter I witnessed in the big leagues, the first time we made the playoffs in Minnesota by winning our division in 2002, the September that we had here in Colorado in 2007 and definitely going to the World Series that year. And getting designated [for assignment] by the Yankees in 2008, and then getting traded to the Astros.
JG: Getting designated for assignment, that was a favorite memory of yours?
Hawkins: Yeah, because like you said, it’s [my career] is like a full circle, I had pretty much everything happen except getting released. It’s one of those conversations you have with the manager and it’s like “Whoa, do I need to continue to do this [playing in the MLB] or work elsewhere? I told myself I wanted to continue to do this so I made some adjustments and I was able to hang around for another seven years.
JG: Do you think there is a connotation with veteran players? Once you’re a “veteran” do you think people think of you as being as veteran or leader before they think of you as an asset to the team?
Hawkins: I think I get that a lot just because people think “Oh, he’s a clubhouse leader, he’s a veteran, he’s a mentor.”
JG: Does that bother you?
Hawkins: Nah, I just don’t want people to forget that I can still get guys out. I can pitch too, I’m not here to be a babysitter or the clubhouse police, I’m here to pitch. My first and foremost job is to go and get outs.
JG: Is there any scenario that would convince you not to retire at the end of this season?
Hawkins: No, this is it. I’ve done everything but win a World Series and make an All Star team, but I’ve played a long time, played against a lot of people and met a lot of great people. My arm feels great, my body feels great, but getting up every morning trying to do it and getting mentally prepared to go out there and do it, it takes a toll on you.
JG: Do you have any post retirement plans?
Hawkins: Hopefully I can work in a front office anywhere. I don’t know about coaching. I won’t say no, but I don’t know. That’s way down the line. Hopefully one of these smart General Managers can give me a job so I can learn the biz.
Contact CU Independent Rockies Beat Writer Justin Guerriero at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @TheHungry_Hippo