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Boggs not fretting the details of 3,000

With 43 hits to go, the third baseman says, "I want to walk to the plate at 2,999 and just let everything fall where it may."

By MARC TOPKIN

© St. Petersburg Times, published June 18, 1999


His son, Brett, will be the bat boy and retrieve the prized piece of lumber. His wife, his daughter and his dad, of course, will be in the stands cheering with a handful of lifetime friends. Tears, undoubtedly, will flow freely.

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Details are coming into focus as Wade Boggs closes in -- albeit slowly, at times -- on the milestone of 3,000 hits. But as for the specifics -- the swing, the trajectory, the direction and destination of the hit that formally and officially will crown his career -- Boggs doesn't even want to think about thinking about it.

"I want to walk to the plate at 2,999 and just let everything fall where it may," Boggs said. "I don't want to sit there and say, "Okay, this is the way it's going to be, and this is the way it's going to turn out,' and then sort of have like deja vu after it already happens.

"I just want to just enjoy the moment when it happens because it's going to be a special moment."

It will be emotional, no doubt.

"A lot of blood, sweat and tears have gone into trying to get there," Boggs said. "I just feel it's the last piece of the puzzle that my career needs. I've done just about everything else."

Boggs enters play tonight in Minnesota with 2,957 hits. He is 43 short of history, and in his prime that would have been easy to get in a month. But Boggs turned 41 Tuesday, he is not quite as spry as he used to be, and he is not playing every day. He is hitting .265 (.250 since coming off the disabled list May 21), which works out to about one hit a game. If he plays four or five days a week, and if Herbert Perry keeps swinging well, that's about the best it's going to be, and his historic at-bat likely will come in late August, maybe early September.

Boggs, though, expresses no concern of when, and certainly not of "if." Sure, the two weeks on the disabled list cost him some time, but "that was just a slowing process." He is acutely aware of where he stands historically, but he goes to the plate with the same simple plan he always has had.

"I just try really not to think about it, just focus in on the day at hand and not too far down the road," he said. "All you can do is try to hit the ball hard; after that, it's not really in your hands anymore."

Boggs isn't the only one headed for the record book. San Diego's Tony Gwynn, who also has spent time on the disabled list, is 22 hits from 3,000.

There is no race, however, to be the 21st member of the elite club, at least not according to Boggs.

"If we were battling it out to be the first player to have 3,000 hits, then that would mean something because, naturally, you always want to be the first to do something that no one else has done," Boggs said.

"But this mountain has been climbed before, and I just want to be a part of it rather than try to add a lot of undue pressure and try to say, "Okay, I've got to beat him, I've got to do this, and I've got to do that,' and next thing you know you're 0-for-3, 0-for-4 and another day goes by.

"We're both going to be there, and whether or not he's 21 or I'm 21, or he's 22 or I'm 22, we're still both there. There's not an asterisk beside us saying he was first or something like that. You're a member of the club."

Boggs claims no preferences where it happens. A single off the wall at Fenway Park would have been nice, but the Rays are done there for the season July 1. A liner over third at Yankee Stadium would be apropos, though Boggs will either have to get really hot (the Rays are there July 21-22) or really cold (they go back Sept. 24-27).

Best of all might be to do it at the Trop, the little kid from Tampa making history in front of his hometown fans. "I'd like to have a 10-game homestand and come home needing three hits," he said.

Getting to 3,000 will mean a lot. But it won't mean the end. Boggs says he feels good, better than when he was in his late 20s; is still having fun; and, most important, continuing to perform at the level he expects from himself. At this point, Boggs says, he plans on playing next season, too.

"I'm not using 3,000 hits as the termination point of my career," he said. "I've got more people to pass on the list."

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