Tuesday, July 15, 2003

For the Boones, it's all in the family

By Kevin Kelly
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Seattle Mariners second baseman Bret Boone takes part in the first round of the All Star Homerun Derby Monday.
(AP photo)
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CHICAGO - The old house in suburban New Jersey had a ready-made ball field in the backyard.

In the boys' minds, one side of the Boone house was the Green Monster. A wooden fence defined the rest of the outfield.

"We used to play wiffleball all day long in the summertime. All day long," Aaron Boone said. "It was unbelievable."

There was pickup basketball and touch football in the street.

But when your last name is Boone, baseball was, is and always will be the only game of real importance.

Three generations of Boones - grandfather Ray, father Bob, sons Bret and Aaron - have played in the major leagues.

And now that Aaron has been selected to play in his first All-Star game today at U.S. Cellular Field, doing so as the Reds' lone representative, each generation of Boone major-leaguers has achieved the distinction.

No other family - not the Alomars, the Alous, the Bells, the Griffeys or the Bonds -- can say that it has had four All-Stars.

"Intuitively we know it's not normal, but since it's all we know, it is," said Bob, the Reds manager who played in the 1976, 1978, 1979 and 1983 All-Star games.

"At least we all have something to talk about. Our family discussions are not very rounded. Baseball somehow sneaks into every conversation."

Ray, the family's patriarch, played in the 1954 and 1956 All-Star games.

Today will mark the third All-Star appearance for Bret, who played for the Reds from 1994-1998 and is now in his third season with the Mariners.

"When I got picked of course I was excited about it, but I think I was more excited for Aaron, knowing it's his first one," Bret said. "I'm very proud of him. And I'm very proud of what my family has done."

Their bond as brothers began immediately, of course, but has strengthened as the years progressed.

It's rare to find brothers who, despite being four years apart in age (Aaron is 30, Bret is 34), are so close emotionally and admire each other so fervently.

"He's got an unbelievable heart," Aaron said. "Sometimes people see the exterior and it's kind of brash, almost cocky.

"But underneath, he really cares, especially about his family and his friends. The best compliment I can give him is that he's one person I can always count on for anything. Anyone in our family can say that."

Added Bret: "We've never really had a rivalry deal. I'm really just pulling for him all the time. When he does well I always feel good about that.

"I never worry about who's doing better, whose numbers are better. It's never been that way."

Reared in major league clubhouses on both coasts, they rubbed tiny elbows with some of baseball's elite before developing into major-league caliber players themselves.

"They were in the clubhouse all the time, every day," Bob said. "If I left for the park before they got home from school they were really (angry)."

Both have posted worthy statistics in recent years and are considered two of the best at fielding their positions.

Aaron set career highs with 26 homers and 87 RBI last season. Bret's career took off after the 2001 season when, in his first season with the Mariners, he batted .331 with 37 home runs and 141 RBI.

Watch today.

Down on the field before game time will be a family of ballplayers, young and old.

A grandpa. A dad. And two brothers.

Together they will share in the pride of sharing an experience. "This is just one of those things that humbles you in the game," Aaron said. "It's beyond being a dream come true."

Game essentials

When: 8 p.m. today; the first pitch will be approximately 8:35 p.m.

Where: U.S. Cellular Field, Chicago

TV: FOX (Chs. 19, 45)

Radio: WCKY-AM (1360)

At stake: For the first time, the winning team earns home field for its league in the World Series.

Reds in the game: Third baseman Aaron Boone

NL lineup

SS  E. Renteria St.L
CF  J. Edmonds St.L
LF  A. Pujols St.L
DH  B. Bonds SF
RF  G. Sheffield Atl.
1B  T. Helton Colo.
3B  S. Rolen St.L
C  J. Lopez Atl.
2B  J. Vidro Mon.
P  J. Schmidt SF

AL lineup

RF   I. SuzukiSea.
2B  A. Soriano NYY
1B  C. Delgado Tor.
SS  A. Rodriguez Texas
LF  G. Anderson Ana.
DH  E. Martinez Sea.
CF  H. Matsui NYY
3B  T. Glaus Ana.
C  J. Posada NYY
P  E. LoaizaChi.

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Tuesday sports on TV, radio

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