Andy Pettitte slapped his leg with his glove when he saw Joe Girardi coming to pull him out of yesterday’s game. He’d give up a double, and it didn’t matter that it was only the second hit he’d allowed, Pettitte knew it was trouble. And it’s not exactly breaking news that Pettitte’s hard on himself.
So when Girardi got the mound and took the ball, Pettitte was ready to do his usual jog back to the dugout, but the moment grabbed him. Yankee Stadium erupted, Pettitte tipped his cap and Derek Jeter stood waiting at the top step for a hug that perfectly captured that moment.
It was almost certainly Pettitte’s last time walking off that mound in that stadium.
“That was all going through my head,” Pettitte said. “Obviously, you start hugging the guys, Jeet’s standing there when you go in there, and it makes it difficult when you start thinking about it.”
Pettitte can be an emotional man, and surely there was some sort of tug in that moment making Pettitte think about another season.
Then again, maybe not.
The one thing that stood about Friday’s retirement announcement was the way Pettitte talked about feeling absolutely drained and truly looking forward to his return to retirement. When he spoke after yesterday’s game, Pettitte did so with his entire family around him, and he didn’t really get choked up talking about coming out of the game, hugging Jeter or stepping out of the dugout for his curtain call. It was this question and this answer that had Pettitte on the verge of tears yesterday.
Years ago, growing up and then in the minor league system, was there ever a Plan B if, for whatever reason, baseball hadn’t worked out – you had an injury or something else – or was it always just baseball, full steam ahead?
“It was baseball,” Pettitte said. “But you definitely know that the percentages aren’t great when you get into minor league ball and see all the players, see all the great arms that you’re basically trying to compete against so you can move up the ladder. The plan B was – and I believe it’s the reason I was able to have so much success in my career and coming up and being able to handle the pressure in the minor leagues – was I had a wonderful wife and, man, we were going to figure it out. I went to junior college for one year and then signed. But if it didn’t work out, I just knew I’d go home and be with my family.”
It did work out. And now Pettitte’s going home to be with his family.
Associated Press photo