JACKSON, Tenn. (BP)--You won’t find
many pitchers who post an ERA of 2.19 and then choose to retire from the
But Cal Eldred, in a lot of ways,
isn’t like most pitchers.
The St. Louis Cardinals reliever
has announced his retirement from baseball. Several factors went into his
decision, but his family was at the top of his list.
“I think he found it was just the
right time for him and the family to shut things down and spend time with them,”
said Michael Maas, Eldred’s agent. “Right now I think it’s family
Eldred may not be familiar to those
other than Cardinals fans or diehard baseball fans, but for the past couple of
years he’s been one of my favorite players. His baseball story is one reason for
A starting pitcher for most of his
career, Eldred enjoyed some success with the Milwaukee Brewers and the Chicago
White Sox before stress fractures in his elbow left his baseball future
Eldred pitched only six innings in
2001 and sat out the entire 2002 season. It looked like his playing days might
But Mike Matheny, a close friend of
Eldred who was the catcher for the Cardinals at the time, convinced team
officials to give Eldred a chance with St. Louis in 2003. He joined the St.
Louis bullpen and posted a respectable 3.74 ERA with eight saves that year -–
quite an accomplishment considering Eldred’s lengthy layoff from the
The next year was also a success,
with Eldred pitching 67 innings with a 3.76 ERA.
In 2005, however, Eldred missed a
good chunk of the season due to a viral infection of the lining around his
heart. He still managed to pitch 37 innings, and his 2.19 ERA was
But baseball is a business, and the
Cardinals weren’t prepared to offer Eldred, now 38, a guaranteed contract for
2006. After considering his options, Eldred chose retirement.
I wasn’t incredibly surprised by
his decision -– because while Eldred’s story on the field is somewhat inspiring,
it’s his character and his priorities off the field that make me respect him
even more. I had the chance to talk to him at length during spring training
earlier this year, and Eldred makes no apologies for the putting God and his
family ahead of his career.
“I don’t mind the effort,” Eldred
said in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “I enjoy the workouts, the pitching and the
competition. And I’ve enjoyed the success the team’s had. But there’s also a
price my family pays and I pay, and it’s just no balancing out. At 38, I don’t
think that’s going to change.”
Eldred and his wife, Christi have
five children. Home schooling is important to them, and baseball made it more
difficult for Eldred to be involved in that endeavor.
So instead of prolonging his
baseball career, reaping the financial benefits and putting up statistics that
will soon be forgotten, Eldred is choosing to make a greater investment in his
family. It’s a decision that will reap benefits for a lifetime.
Tim Ellsworth writes this column, a part of his FIRST PERSON series, from his home in Jackson, Tenn. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit his blog at www.timellsworth.com for additional commentary on sports,
religion, culture and politics.
Editor's Note: This article first appeared at BPSports.net - Sports with a Spiritual
Attitude! - republished here with permission.