In preparation for the WBC, 40-year-old Bernie Williams, two seasons removed from his forced retirement, showed up in Tampa to practice yesterday. When Bernie, his four rings and all the nostalgia he carries with him shows up to camp, it’s a story. In fact, it’s more than just one story.
Peter Abraham presented a picture of a player reluctant to give up baseball. While time had passed Bernie by, the Yanks’ former All Star had trouble coming to terms with it and still seems as though he would be playing if for his family and the fact that no one will employ him. “It’s the story of a guy who still thinks he can play,” Williams said.
But the idea that he could still play never went away. Williams tried to make a comeback in December when he joined a team in the Puerto Rican winter league. That ended after three games when he pulled a muscle in his leg. Now he wants to try again in the WBC if his body holds up…
Williams, who has never admitted to being retired, wistfully spoke of playing in the majors this season. “I’ve always had the desire in the back of my mind that maybe, perhaps, if the situation was right with myself and my family that I could come back before it was too late. Right now I’m taking it as it comes,” he said. “If I still have the fire, I may have to consider seriously taking the opportunity to maybe, perhaps, playing somewhere else. Right now, it’s a very premature statement.”
And on the other hand — and in a somewhat similar vein — is Mark Feinsand’s piece. It sheds some more light on Bernie’s exit from the Yanks and his subsequent reconciliation. The two pieces overlap quite a bit, and both Abraham and Feinsand spend some words focusing on Bernie’s desires to return. Feinsand too sheds some light on the supposedly bitter break up between the Yanks and number 51. Apparently, it wasn’t as bad as we thought:
A lot was made of Bernie’s supposed anger over the way his career ended with the Yankees, but he cleared that up Thursday. The minor-league invite made it easier for him to turn down the offer, since he had a lot of issues with his wife and children, so many that he felt at the time that if he continued to play, he would lose them forever.
But now, Bernie seems happy with his life, even if this WBC represents his final shot at playing competitive baseball. He made his return to Yankee Stadium for the final game last September, but his appearance at Steinbrenner Field felt like the final step in fully mending any broken bonds between Bernie and the only team for which he ever played.
“I feel that I never left,” he said. “The fact that I stepped away had nothing to do with being angry with them. I had to take care of some things, step away and really figure out what was important in my life. I think I’m in a better place right now.”
Bernie wants to come back and play for someone somewhere as a way to go out on his terms. I doubt that will happen, and if he makes Puerto Rico’s WBC team, it probably be the last time we see him in uniform. I, though, am glad to see Bernie back in the Yankee fold. He deserves his Bronx day in the sun.