Weather | Traffic | Surf | Maps | Webcam

 »Next Story»
 Local News
 Personal Tech
 Currents & Arts
 The Last Week
 Weekly Sections
 Personal Tech
 Night & Day
 Religion & Ethics
 Sunday Arts
Subscribe to the UT

The San Diego Union-Tribune

Rickey to play for Surf Dawgs


May 9, 2005

JIM BAIRD / Union-Tribune
Rickey Henderson set the major league record for runs scored in a career (2,295) in 2001 while with the Padres.
The San Diego Surf Dawgs begin spring training today in Arizona as they prepare for the inaugural season of the Golden Baseball League.

Manager Terry Kennedy has 32 players in camp competing for 24 spots on the Class-A level independent team's roster, but Kennedy already has found a good candidate to bat leadoff: Rickey Henderson.

The future Hall of Famer has signed a contract to play for the Surf Dawgs this season. Henderson will earn the league maximum of $3,000 per month, but it is a marketing agreement with the GBL that will prove most lucrative to the 46-year-old outfielder.

One of the first special events: Rickey Henderson bobblehead night, of course.

The official announcement of Henderson's signing is expected today when Henderson arrives in Mesa at Hohokam Stadium, the spring training complex of the Chicago Cubs, where the Surf Dawgs are training. He was not available for comment last night.

Traveling man

Rickey Henderson, who has signed with the minor league San Diego Surf Dawgs, has played for nine major league teams and one minor league team over 25 years. His career:

Oakland, 1979-84

N.Y. Yankees, 1985-89

Oakland, 1989-93

Toronto, 1993

Oakland, 1994-95

Padres, 1996-97

Anaheim, 1997

Oakland, 1998

N.Y. Mets, 1999-2000

Seattle, 2000

Padres, 2001

Boston, 2002

Newark Bears, 2003

Los Angeles, 2003

Newark Bears, 2004

Fans can expect to see Henderson in left field when the team opens the season May 26 at Tony Gwynn Stadium.

"He creates a buzz," Kennedy said. "The two-sided thing for us is he will put people in the seats, and he can still play a little bit.

"When I spoke to him I said, 'Are you in shape?' and he said, 'You know I am.' Who else has that kind of body at age 46? It's something that I can't fathom because I was pretty sore by the time I was in my mid-30s and he's laid his body on the ground a lot more than I did."

Kennedy, whose 14-year major league career included six seasons catching for the Padres, chuckled at the thought of managing a player who is just two years younger than he is.

"He still just wants to play," Kennedy said. "I think he wants to be the first one to hit a home run, cross home plate and collect his salary check, pension and social security all at the same time."

When the GBL was formed last year, organizers said they had little interest in signing former major leaguers, knowing it would be viewed by some as a publicity stunt.

This opportunity proved too good to pass up, however.

"As with any signing of a big athlete, someone who has a reputation, people are going to view it that way," said Dave Kaval, the GBL's founder and CEO. "But if people come out to the ballpark, they're going to see how much Rickey plays. He's such a competitor. He wants to win. . . . The doubters and cynics will be pleasantly surprised.

"That he would choose the GBL to play is flattering to us."

Henderson continues to delay his Hall of Fame eligibility by playing professionally. He played the past two seasons for the Newark (N.J.) Bears in the independent Atlantic League. In 2003, he batted .339 with eight home runs and 33 RBI in 56 games before a midseason return to the majors with the Los Angeles Dodgers. Last season, he stole 37 bases for the Bears.

Henderson set major league records for stolen bases (1,406), walks (2,190, which was eclipsed last season by Barry Bonds) and runs scored (2,295), and is one of only 25 players to accumulate 3,000 hits. Henderson has 297 homers, and holds the record for leadoff homers with 81.

Henderson's 25-year major league career includes three seasons – 1996, '97 and 2001 – with the Padres. That's when he endeared himself to San Diego fans, who saw Henderson set major league records for walks and runs while wearing a Padres uniform in 2001. In addition, his 3,000th hit came at Qualcomm Stadium in the final game of that season.

"Rickey's return to San Diego is exciting for baseball fans in the community," said Juliana Paoli, Surf Dawgs general manager. "The spirit of the Surf Dawgs is to provide fun, family entertainment in the intimate atmosphere of Tony Gwynn Stadium. I'm delighted for our fans to have a chance to get an up-close look at a legend."

Kennedy is eager to see what Henderson's presence does for the players around him.

"I've got a young guy named Ian Laws," said Kennedy, speaking of a 24-year-old outfielder from Canoga Park. "He can fly. But he has trouble stealing first base. Rickey might be the guy who could help. This could be the guy to influence one or two of my outfielders.

"I'm going to build around as much speed as I can get. Having the greatest leadoff hitter, the greatest base stealer of all time, is going to help."

The Surf Dawgs train the next two weeks in Mesa before returning to San Diego. The spring roster includes six players with local ties – catcher Nick Guerra (USDHS), infielders Garrett Cook (San Diego State) and Anthony Stabile (USDHS) and pitchers Nate Staggs (USDHS), Aaron Wilson (Santana/USD) and Matt Wheatland (Rancho Bernardo).

Kirk Kenney: (619) 293-1825;

 »Next Story»

Contact Us | Site Index | About Us | Advertise on SignOnSanDiego | Make us your homepage
Frequently Asked Questions | | About the Union-Tribune | Contact the Union-Tribune
© Copyright 2005 Union-Tribune Publishing Co.