FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. -- Craig Biggio says he's "just a dad," watching his sons play ball, but how many dads sign autographs for players on the other team? That's what he did Thursday afternoon during a rain delay at the Premier Baseball Sophomore Championship here.
Biggio sat in a chair at the Fayetteville High School indoor facility, talked baseball and signed autographs for players on the Austin Wings ballclub, fellow Texans who are fully aware of what Biggio accomplished during his 20-year career with the Houston Astros. If those guys are smart, they'll put those autographed baseballs in a safe place when they get home, because Biggio is undoubtedly headed for the Hall of Fame in a few years.
Biggio retired after the 2007 season with 3,060 hits, 668 doubles, 414 stolen bases, 291 home runs, a career .281 batting average and 1,175 RBIs, making him the only player in major league history with 3,000 hits, 600 doubles, 400 stolen bases and 250 homers. He made the National League All-Star team as a catcher in 1991, then made the team again the next year as a second baseman, the only time anyone's been an All-Star at those two spots, let alone in consecutive years.
There's more, of course. He hit 50 homers to lead off a game, the most in NL history. His 668 doubles are the fifth-best in history and the most by a right-handed batter. He made the All-Star team seven times, won a Gold Glove four times, and is only the ninth player in major league history to get 3,000 hits with one team.
Yes, fellas, save those autographed baseballs, because Mr. Biggio is headed for Cooperstown. And there he was Thursday, chatting amiably, relaxed, watching it rain and telling stories.
Biggio retired as an active player after the 2007 season, but did not retire from baseball. He worked as an assistant coach at St. Thomas High School in Houston in 2008, then served as the head coach this past season. His oldest son, Conor, was the starting second baseball on the team this year, and he'll be joined by his brother, Cavan, a third baseman and shortstop, in 2010. Conor will be a junior next season and Cavan a freshman.
"We might be the double-play combination," said Conor. To which Craig replied, smiling, "The younger one will have to earn it."
That's what Biggio has instilled in his sons, and that's the way he played the game: Play hard. Be smart. Love the game. "Do everything 100 percent and give it your all," said Conor, who's apparently learned his lesson well. "That goes for baseball and for life."
Conor and Cavan play for the Houston Heat Silver during the summer, although Cavan is not in Fayetteville for the Premier Baseball event. He's playing for a younger team in a tournament in Texas, and that's where Craig was headed Thursday night.
Biggio pitched a little batting practice for the Heat on Thursday, but otherwise he's "just a dad" and not one of their summer coaches.
"In the summer, I do nothing except sit there and be a dad, and talk about the game when it's over," he said.
Biggio, 43, had a chance to go into broadcasting after he retired, but turned it down. "When I called it quits, I wanted to see my kids a little bit, before they disappear on me," he said. Craig and his wife, Patty, also have a daughter, Quinn, who is 9. Conor is 16 and Cavan 14.
Biggio said he'll help broadcast the Aflac All-American High School Classic in San Diego on Aug. 16 on FOX Sports. He said he's looking forward to the Aflac game, but is not looking for a new career in the booth. "I'm excited to see the talent," he said.
Biggio said he enjoyed his initial year as the head coach at St. Thomas High School.
"I enjoyed it more than I thought I would," he said. "It's teaching. It's teaching the game, talking about your experiences. It was so much fun to be around them. They're good kids. They're like sponges, they just want to learn. They want to play and they want to work."
Biggio had plenty of experiences during his career, topped by a trip to the 2005 World Series with Houston, the first time the Astros -- or any team from Texas -- had ever reached the Fall Classic. He sounds more proud of making the World Series than anything else in his baseball career. And in fact, he accomplished more in baseball than he ever dreamed possible.
"I pinch myself all the time," he said. "I grew up in a little town on Long Island (New York). Yeah, I definitely exceeded my expectations. The thing is, I loved the game. I just loved to play. I wanted to win, I wanted to get us to the World Series, I wanted to get the Astros organization to the World Series for the first time ever. That was the ultimate goal. It was always about the game."
Conor said he loved hanging around the Astros clubhouse when his father was playing, soaking in the atmosphere and learning about the game. He described the experience as "amazing."
"It was really fun," he said. "Sometimes I ask him if he can go back (and play again), just so I can go hang out again there."
It sounds like Conor didn't want his father to retire. "Yes and no," he replied. "I wanted to stay with the Astros and do all that stuff, but it's nice to have a dad around the whole time."
Biggio asked for Conor's opinion before becoming the head coach at St. Thomas, and Conor thought it was a good idea.
"I think he and I both learned a lot about each other," Craig said. "I'm just like everybody else: I'm here to teach. My name might be a little different from other people, but it's about the game. If you respect the game and work hard, I'll do as much as I can for you."