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WEST TEXAS SPORTS BANQUET: Baseball is in the Boone blood - Odessa American: Oavarsity

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WEST TEXAS SPORTS BANQUET: Baseball is in the Boone blood

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Posted: Thursday, February 6, 2014 10:59 pm

There were skills passed down from generation to generation, along with wisdom and shared experiences at the ballpark. Genetics surely played a part as well, as did good fortune.

Bob Boone isn’t exactly sure what makes the men in his family better baseball players than just about every other family around, but he knows he’s enjoyed being part of one of the rarest feats in the history of the game.

Before the 66-year-old Boone spent 19 seasons in Major League Baseball as a catcher for the Philadelphia Phillies, California Angels and Kansas City Royals, his father, Ray Boone, was a big-league ballplayer as well. Then, his two sons, Bret Boone and Aaron Boone, also played the game at its highest level.

The Boones are one of only five families to have three generations wear major league uniforms, and they became the first when Bret debuted with the Seattle Mariners in 1992. All four Boones were selected to an All-Star team at least once during their careers.

“Well, it just kind of happened,” Bob Boone said. “It was fantastic, really.”

Bob Boone, now an assistant general manager and president of player development for the Washington Nationals, was the keynote speaker Thursday at the West Texas Sports Banquet and Memorabilia Auction at Midland Country Club. He talked about his wealth of experiences in baseball and how the game has changed over the years, mixing in some entertaining anecdotes along the way.

The annual banquet is hosted by the Midland RockHounds, and their front-office personnel were among the many who enjoyed Boone’s perspective.

“I never had the opportunity to meet him until tonight, so I’m very fortunate to be here,” said RockHounds manager Aaron Nieckula, who was a catcher himself. “Hopefully I’ll have an opportunity to kind of pick his brain and talk to him a little bit about baseball.”

Bob Boone, who also spent a combined six seasons as manager for the Royals and Cincinnati Reds, marveled at how the game has evolved since he was a youngster watching his father play. Ray Boone had to work a second job during the offseason, because players in the 1940s and 1950s weren’t paid enough to support their families otherwise, whereas multi-million dollar contracts were the norm when Bret and Aaron Boone played during the 1990s and early 2000s.

Bob Boone said inflated salaries have led to more of a social disconnect between teammates, who instead of hanging out together after games and during road trips tend to leave the park early and retreat to their large homes in suburbia. He said they’ve also contributed to performance-enhancing drug use, because players feel so much pressure to perform and compete for their high-paying jobs.

Boone said he doesn’t have the answers for solving baseball’s PED problem, or how that problem should be addressed in the National Baseball Hall of Fame. But he said suspected PED users Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens are worthy of being in the Hall of Fame, which Boone said should be more of a baseball museum than a shrine to its best players.

The same goes for all-time hits leader Pete Rose, who along with Boone helped the Phillies win the 1980 World Series but was later banned from baseball for betting on games while managing the Reds.

“If I’m a fan and I’m taking my kids or my grandkids to the Hall of Fame, I want to be able to see something with Pete Rose and talk about it,” Boone said. “And on his plaque you could have, ‘He did this and this and this but was banned from baseball, and here’s why.’ I want to know about Shoeless Joe Jackson. I want to know about the PED era.”

Boone said he thinks MLB leadership, along with the players’ union, have taken steps in the right direction to clean up the game. He also said personal character becomes more of a factor in the scouting process, especially when prospective players have equal physical abilities.

“The good teams have that camaraderie,” Boone said. “(The players are) just getting bigger and better and stronger and faster, and they get hurt more.”

Durability and longevity were integral parts of Boone’s playing career. He played 2,225 games at catcher — a record before Carlton Fisk and Ivan Rodriguez came along — and was a four-time All-Star and seven-time Gold Glove winner.

He said the toughness required to play the game, both physical and mental, was something he picked up from his dad and passed along to his sons.

“The one thing I’m probably proudest of is how tough my dad was, how tough I am and how tough my kids were,” Boone said.

Boone said growing up around major league clubhouses was a “huge advantage” for himself and for his sons. None of them were in awe when they reached the major league level, and Boone said he and his sons also learned the proper techniques at an early age.

All those tricks of the trade and tidbits of knowledge are being passed down to a new generation of Boone boys. Bret and Aaron Boone both have sons, and there’s a good chance they’ll pursue a baseball career like their fathers, grandfather and great-grandfather.

The next in line is Bret’s oldest son, Jake Boone, a 14-year-old high school freshman in the San Diego area. Bob Boone said his grandson has showed promise as a shortstop — all the Boone big leaguers were infielders except Bob — and perhaps he’ll give the family a fourth generation in the majors.

“It’ll be interesting,” Bob Boone said. “He’s got a chance. He’s got some talent.”

Not to mention pretty good genes.

Odessa, TX

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