LAS VEGAS — Whenever Bobby Brown sees a friend, he says: "There he is!"
But, on Sunday, there went Bobby Brown out the door.
The Padres had released him.
At first, he was happy. He'd wanted it this way. He had told general manager Jack McKeon last Thursday: "If you're gonna release me, release me now." Brown has a business back East, and it needed tending.
But then he was sad. After McKeon gave him the news Sunday, Brown, 31, was asked by a reporter: "So, you have no more desire to play baseball?"
He answered: "No . . . My career is over."
Then he broke into tears. He covered his eyes with a towel and said: "Give me a minute, will you?"
A minute later, he said: "You know these tears in my eyes? It's not that I'm sad. I'm happy about going into my other career. But you go around shaking hands with the players, the fellas. These are guys you've known. . . . "
He again went to the towel.
But, inevitably, his new business should take him to the bank. He and Chicago Cub outfielder Jerry Mumphrey are partners in a company called "Major League Dairies." It's an ice cream parlor in Atlantic City that's due to open in May. In the meantime, he has also been involved in distributing--cheeses and other foods.
But it's the parlor that has potential. He described the store. Above you, as you walk in, are giant, crossed baseball bats, and you can buy ice cream shaped like a ball, a glove, etc. There is a real pitcher's mound inside the store and a dugout where kids can sit and eat. There are also box seats. It's a mini-stadium.
There will be satellite television, so Brown can bring in highlights from any baseball game. He said he'll show a "play of the day, maybe a play of the hour" on big TV screens.
And most important, he said, portions of the profit will be donated to nearby communities for sports equipment and education.
"Everyone wants to make money," Brown said. "But it's the benefit it will have on young kids that I like."
Still, Brown estimated he can make well above his major league salary (estimated at $135,000 a year, and it was guaranteed this year) with the parlor.
"It (baseball) was taking its toll on me," he said. " . . . I'm not saying baseball's no more fun, but I didn't enjoy it the way I used to, and I couldn't get as fired up about it as I used to. Maybe that was a sign. It was time to move on, and I thank God I was strong enough to accept it."
Saying goodby was the hard part.
"If it wasn't for Jack McKeon, I don't know if Bobby Brown would've been here last year," Brown said. "I think Dick Williams wanted to get rid of me. He (McKeon) has been like a father to me. . . . I can't express how much I like the man, how much we care about each other. With or without baseball, I'll always love him and respect him."
McKeon, told of those words, fought off his own tears.
"The biggest think you can say about Bobby is that he wasn't fooling himself," McKeon said. "He realized he was near the end of the line, and there was no reason to prolong it. He was honest with himself. A lot of guys say 'I can play four more years.' He said: 'I know you have a decision to make, but John Kruk deserves to be on this team more than I do.' He has a lot of class. I hate to see him go."
Andy Hawkins walked near Brown in the clubhouse Sunday, and Brown said: "There he is!" Hawkins said goodby, and Brown ended up borrowing Hawkins' sunglasses.
"I got to hide my eyes," Brown said. "I can't let anybody see me like this."
And there he went.
LaMarr Hoyt made his official return Sunday when he threw to five batters during the Padres' 8-7 exhibition victory over the Minnesota Twins.
The first batter, Jeff Reed, hit a home run.
The next three batters went down in order.
And the last batter, Kirby Puckett, bunted at Hoyt, who couldn't pick it up and was charged with an error.
"I was very unsettled when I first went out there, but something like a home run brings you back to reality," Hoyt said. "I was babying my arm at first, throwing too many finesse pitches--changeups, curveballs and sliders. It takes something like that (a home run) to get you going."
Still, his outing was considered a success, and he will be in the bullpen today for the season opener.
"The first four or five days, I'll try to stay away from him," Manager Steve Boros said. "We have five relief pitchers, and they're all good ones. We can have him throw on the side and maybe in a simulated game. Once we get back home, we'll see."