|Mariners' McLaren is a confidant for Boone's alcohol problems|
|Written by Admin|
|Wednesday, 27 February 2008 00:10|
What wasn't fun about 37 home runs and a league-best 147 RBIs? Boone was an All-Star who probably would have been an MVP if teammate Ichiro Suzuki hadn't been so brilliant in his rookie season.
Mariners manager John McLaren was there for Boone's boon. He was the bench coach for the star who once walked into spring training with Seattle and declared, ``Don't call me Bret. Call me 'The Boone.'''
``To this day, I call him 'The Boone,''' McLaren said Tuesday, laughing. ``He calls me up and it's, 'Hey, The Boone. What's up?'''
Yes, Boone was the life of that Mariners' party, the last one to reach the postseason.
``When you talk about Boone, you can always smile,'' McLaren said.
More recently, McLaren has been a confidant through Boone's darkest days. The three-time All-Star and four-time Gold Glove winner abruptly walked away from the game in 2006 while in spring training with the New York Mets. It was his third team in eight months.
Boone said then he had lost his mental edge. No one really knew why. Except McLaren.
Monday, their secret was out. Boone, now 38 and attempting a comeback with the Washington Nationals, told reporters in Viera, Fla., that alcohol had become his main problem.
``I'm very proud of Bret ... I've been in touch with him a lot and I knew exactly what was going on,'' McLaren said, his arms folded across his chest while biting his lower lip. ``For him to admit he made a mistake and to deal with it, he's doing the right thing.
``Bret's a good person. He wants to be a great dad, and he's doing that. He looked himself in the mirror, knew he had a problem and he took care of it. I support him totally.''
The Nationals signed Boone to a minor league contract, but promoted him to their major league camp this week. He told The Seattle Times on Monday: ``It just became commonplace to go drink six, eight, 10 beers. It was a normal thing.''
He told a similar story to MLB.com, saying his problem began during his best years in Seattle.
``You get into a routine. And you do it for years,'' Boone said. ``When you're young, you can handle it. You rebound from it. And it's not an issue.
``All of a sudden with me, it became a little bit of an issue.''
He said he spent 26 days in an outpatient rehabilitation center near his home in San Diego. He said he hasn't had a drink in seven months.
It gives more meaning to what Nationals manager Manny Acta said about Boone on Monday.
``Bret's not actually competing with all those guys. He's competing against himself first,'' Acta said.
Acta did not comment on Boone on Tuesday, after Boone's revelation that was not a complete shock to those who were around his former Mariners teams.
Yet McLaren said he didn't see any warning signs in 2001 and '02 while he was Seattle's bench coach - or in their many chats after the Mariners and Twins both cut Boone midway through 2003.
``No. If I did, I would certainly tell the man. I consider myself close to him and I didn't see it,'' McLaren said.
``Maybe I should have looked harder.''
Lost behind the intense publicity over their sport's battle with performance-enhancing drugs, clubs are trying to be proactive about alcohol consumption during team events. The Mariners are among the teams that have instituted rules in the past year on drinking during team flights. Seattle prohibits it within three hours of home on inbound flights.
But beer remains as much a part of baseball as locker stalls - or outfield walls that have beer advertisements painted on them. It's been that way well before Boone entered the major leagues in 1992 with the Mariners, the latest generation of a baseball family.
During his Seattle heyday, Boone was once irate over being ordered to bunt on consecutive nights.
``Boone doesn't bunt. Boone gets paid to drive in runners,'' he told McLaren.
McLaren told ``The Boone'' to direct his anger at manager Lou Piniella.
``I come back 20 minutes later and they've both got a beer in their hands and laughing,'' McLaren said, chuckling. ``And I'm the idiot.''
Lately, he's been Boone's friend.
``He's got a little bit of 'Leave it to Beaver' in him, and that's what makes him so special,'' McLaren said. ``He's a fun guy. He played the game hard, with passion.
``He's a standup guy. ... Besides him talking about himself a little bit - a lot - he was a fun guy to be around.''