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Wade Boggs: Hall of Fame 2005

Where I learned to hit

Wade Boggs looks back on his years growing up in Tampa, a time he said he "absolutely loved."

By SCOTT PURKS, Times Staff Writer
Published July 31, 2005

We moved to Tampa in the summer of '69. I was 11.

I went to Morgan Woods Elementary for about three weeks. Then we were looking for a house and wound up on Davis Islands. So, 1970 was the first year at Bayshore (Little League), which was the first year that (the league) was on the island.

At the time, rightfield was on the bay, so when we played sandlot games, I'd hit all the balls into the bay. (So the rule during sandlot games) was that if I hit a ball to center or right, I was out. That's one way I learned to hit balls to leftfield and stay away from pulling the ball to right, because we'd lose all the balls and we'd have to go home. We wouldn't have any balls until the next day when we would go to the sporting goods store.

I always knew at 10, 11, 12 years old that when we were playing softball or sandlot or stickball or whatever, I had a gift - and the gift was hitting.

(My father, Win, helped teach me hitting), the wait-weight theory. How you wait on the ball, and then transfer your weight. Dad was a big Ted Williams disciple. He just loved Ted Williams. My father was your prototypical dad, but he was a visionary. I started out throwing left-handed, and he made me throw right-handed (by tying my left arm to my torso with a belt) so I could play more positions.

He also made me hit left-handed so I (could start) closer to first base. It was this "how I'm gonna mold him" thing. As my senior league coach (from ages 13-15), he really taught me the finer points of the game. The most difficult part was not showing emotion, playing on an even keel. I remember one time when the umpire called me out on strikes. I knew the pitch was outside, and I just turned around and threw the bat at the fence. The umpire threw me out of the game. And my dad suspended me for one game - which sent a message to all the kids that discipline is part of the game.

(At Plant High School) I was quarterback my sophomore and junior years, but just did the kicking my senior year (and made all-state). My junior year I just got beat up so much. I knew if I quarterbacked my senior year that it would effect my baseball career, because we didn't have the best offensive line and we were going to take a beating. We ran the wishbone, which was not the kind of offense I wanted to run. I was more of a passing quarterback (and was offered a football scholarship to Pittsburgh).

Those were great days. It's incredible how Tampa has changed. I remember that north of Dale Mabry and Busch Boulevard there was nothing except a little convenience store that sold bait. My dad and I used to go fishing just off of Lake Fern Road. There was nothing north of Busch Boulevard back in '71, '72.

My brother still lives in the same house where I grew up. But going back and looking at how Davis Islands has changed - with all the big homes, where people have torn down (smaller) homes and put big ones in place of them - you wouldn't even know the island where I used to ride my bike. Tommy's house, Kenny's house, Sy's house, Joe's house - just all wiped out. There are just giant homes there now.

The Little League park is a whole complex now. It's all just changed so much.

But, like everything else, it's for the good.

[Last modified July 31, 2005, 01:33:10]


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