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AMERICAN LEAGUE CHAMPIONSHIP SERIES

Carew Has Finally Found His Fortress of Solitude

October 11, 2002|BILL SHAIKIN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

In the still of the morning, the distinguished gentleman walks into the ballpark, in search of solitude and comfort.

For so many years Rod Carew performed here, brilliance at bat. When he comes to Edison Field these days, he comes alone. He walks into a courtyard to a circle of flowers. Within it is a bronze bust of a young woman.

Here, Michelle Carew perpetually smiles. Here, a ballpark that can hold 45,000 screaming fans becomes a sanctuary for one man. Here, Rod Carew remembers the daughter he lost six years ago to leukemia, her life cut short at 18.

"I come out here a lot, by myself," Carew said. "Sometimes I just sit and talk to her."

Tonight, Carew returns to hear the cheers. For the first time since his tenure as Angel batting coach ended in 1999, Carew will attend a game at Edison Field, throwing out the ceremonial first pitch before tonight's American League championship series game between the Angels and the Minnesota Twins.

Few honors could be more fitting. Carew, a Hall of Famer and seven-time batting champion, played all 19 seasons of his career for the Twins and Angels. He is the only player to have his number retired by both teams.

"I wish," he said, "that both of them could win."

After eight seasons as the Angel batting coach, and two more as the Milwaukee Brewers' batting coach, Carew enjoyed a summer away from the diamond this year. Although he lives in Orange County and visits Edison Field for those few moments with his late daughter, he did not care to attend any Angel games--for the same reason that he stayed away after his playing career ended in 1985.

"Once I get away from the game, I hide," he said. "I don't really stay in touch with too many people. I have friends outside baseball that are important to me. Those are the people I spend my time with. I know they're always there for me."

Carew said he is thrilled with the success of the Twins and Angels and particularly pleased for some of the Angels he formerly coached.

"Garret [Anderson] has been doing it for so many years, and he's finally starting to get the recognition," Carew said. "I'm happy for him. I'm happy for Timmy [Salmon]. I'm happy for Erstad.

"I'm happy for the organization. I wish it could have happened when Mr. Autry was here."

While the Angels failed to win a postseason series until this year, they won their first division championship in 1979.

In the game that clinched the division title for the "Yes We Can" Angels, the final out was a ground ball to first base, fielded by Carew and flipped to pitcher Frank Tanana as fans stormed the field at Anaheim Stadium.

"It was such a scary feeling," Carew said. "Everyone was standing. It seemed like the whole stadium was closing in on us. Once I gave him the ball, I just wanted to get out of there. I just wanted to make sure I got off the field real quick."

Carew continues to honor the promise he made to his daughter, working with the Leukemia Society and the National Marrow Donor Program in the search for a cure for leukemia.

"No one remembers a bank account or what kind of house you live in or what kind of car you drive," he said. "Making a difference in the life of someone else, that's what's important."

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