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Family shares the moment

From on-field to miles away, Boggs' family treasures the chaos surrounding the milestone hit.

By JOHN ROMANO

© St. Petersburg Times, published August 8, 1999


ST. PETERSBURG -- They had, give or take, 18 years to prepare for the moment. And when it arrived, the Boggs family was in utter disarray.

Daughter Megann was driving frantically back from West Palm Beach where she was a bridesmaid in a friend's wedding earlier Saturday. When she called her mother and found out Wade was a hit away, she shouted that he needed to draw a walk to buy time.

photo
Wade Boggs celebrates with father, Win. [AP photo, Robert Rogers]
Son Brett, who was the Devil Rays bat boy, had been instructed to pull up first base if the hit were a single, or second base if it were a double. When No. 3,000 cleared the fence, he was frantic. How do you pull up home plate?

Wife Debbie, following a lifelong ritual, refused to stand when Wade came to the plate. It is a superstition, she said, to remain seated at crucial junctures. So for the biggest moment of her husband's career, Debbie had an obstructed view.

Father Win, who had envisioned a moment like this since he watched Wade swinging a bat as a 2-year-old, was sitting about 30 yards away and still missed his son's trip around the bases.

"I watched him as long as I could," the 75-year-old Boggs said, "until the damn tears got in the way."

Wade Boggs said he never wanted to visualize his 3,000th hit because he wanted the moment to be spontaneous.

That's exactly what he got.

The first thing he said to his father when they embraced on the field was that they'd never find the historic ball. Win Boggs later found out that the Devil Rays had planned for the possibility of a home run by placing a special infrared marking on the ball and posting sentries in the bleachers to watch for it.

"I'm glad somebody thought about that, because I wasn't thinking home run," Win said. "I would have settled for a single."

Debbie Boggs was told that the fan who retrieved the ball was willing to give it back in a trade.

"What are we going to trade?" she laughed. "One of my kids?"

In the hectic moments afterward, the Boggs family was ushered onto the field, where Debbie and Win both hugged Wade and Rays managing general partner Vince Naimoli presented Debbie with an enormous bouquet of roses.

The scene was a stark departure from the Boggs household in the days leading up to the historic hit.

"You could tell Wade was feeling it," Debbie said. "He gets real quiet when he's tense and everybody gets scared to talk to him or bother him. That's what it's been like the last two weeks."

And after all the years, the occasional trying times, the weeks-long buildup, what did Wade tell his wife as they embraced on the field?

"He didn't say anything. He just cried," Debbie said. "And I cried with him."

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