05/05/10 11:25 PM ET
Byrnes feels end is here after release
Former outfielder making plans for life after baseball
By Steve Gilbert / MLB.com
"I think this is the end," Byrnes said in an interview with MLB.com on Wednesday. "You never say never, but I think this is it. Parts of 11 seasons, man -- I gave everything I had to the game. I can look myself in the mirror and know that I gave it my all. I'm proud of that."
While his Major League days may be over, his playing days are not. The 34-year-old filled his first two days after his release on the golf course, and he was headed to play in a recreational softball league with his friends Wednesday evening.
That's right, the man the Arizona Diamondbacks are paying $11 million this year in the final year of a three-year deal is going to star for a team sponsored by Dutch Goose, a burger and beer pub in Menlo Park, Calif.
"This is going to be a blast," he said. "Playing with my buddies. I can't wait for my first hit. I'm going to ask for the ball."
That's because there haven't been enough hits for Byrnes the past three seasons.
Midway through the 2007 season, when he was helping to spark a young D-backs team to a 90-win season and the National League Championship Series, Byrnes signed a three-year, $30 million extension.
The following spring, he injured his hamstring, tried to play through it and injured the other. Limited to 52 games, he hit just .209. And then in 2009, still nagged by injuries, he hit .226 and the D-backs released him in January, despite having to pay him for his final year.
Byrnes signed with the Mariners and made their Opening Day roster, but once again could not seem to find his stroke at the plate. He was released Sunday after going 0-for-3 with two strikeouts to drop his average to .094. Two nights earlier, he botched a suicide squeeze bunt in the 11th inning when he pulled his bat back on the pitch and Ichiro Suzuki was easily tagged out at the plate.
"I had a great time with Seattle during Spring Training," Byrnes said. "I just wasn't able to have success with the opportunities that I had, and when that happens on a team that's struggling, you know how it's going to end."
That Byrnes' career will come to a close on an unsuccessful note does not take away from what he did accomplish.
Drafted twice before finally signing with the A's in 1998 after playing at UCLA, Byrnes rode the shuttle between Triple-A Sacramento and Oakland before finally spending a full year in the big leagues in 2003.
His career teetered on the edge in 2005 when he was traded twice during the season and wasn't offered a contract by the Orioles that December. Only a standout 2006 campaign with the D-backs resuscitated his career.
"I left everything on the field," he said. "It wasn't a storybook career. There were a lot of ups, a lot of downs. There was a lot of turmoil in my career. I wasn't expected to do this much in the game. For it to end the way it did, it wasn't for lack of effort. I played my butt off right until the end; I just didn't hit."
As he enters the next phase of his life, Byrnes said he's looking forward to having time for other pursuits. He plans on doing more surfing, playing more golf, recreational softball and spending more time with his wife, Tarah, with whom he founded a clothing business called bYRNt Organics.
"I'm going to get to be Mr. Mom for a while," Byrnes said. "I'm looking forward to putting more time and energy into our company. I've never been afraid for my career to be over. There are plenty of things I want to do with my life."
Like work in the media. Don't be surprised to see Byrnes pop up on television or radio. He got a taste of it with "The Eric Byrnes Show" as well as appearances during baseball's postseason on FOX, and he hosted his own radio show for a time.
"I've always had two passions in my life," Byrnes said. "One of them was playing sports and the other was talking about sports."
Steve Gilbert is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.