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SOCCER

Hamm is happy just hangin' at the crib

January 26, 2008|Grahame L. Jones | Times Staff Writer

Recently, Mia Hamm was about to leave home for an interview at a TV station. But it was a reluctant departure.

Hamm, once the world's best-known female soccer player, is now a homebody, content to spend her time in her Manhattan Beach house with her husband, Dodgers infielder Nomar Garciaparra, and their 10-month-old twin girls, Ava and Grace.

"I was looking at him sitting there, with Grace on his chest asleep, and that to me was perfect," Hamm said.

Motherhood fits Hamm as comfortably as her famous No. 9 jersey. "Every morning you go into the girls' room to get them out of their crib and they make you feel like you're a superhero," she said.

Hamm, 35, is adamant that her playing days are over, even though her image recently was selected as the logo for the Women's Professional Soccer league that launches next year. But today she will don her cleats once again for an on-field appearance. The occasion is the Celebrity Soccer Challenge, a charity match at 1 p.m. at the Home Depot Center in Carson to benefit the bone marrow transplant program at Childrens Hospital Los Angeles and the Mia Hamm Foundation.

Among those taking part in the seven-a-side half-field game will be Hamm; fellow world and Olympic champions Julie Foudy, Joy Fawcett, Kristine Lilly, Brandi Chastain and Abby Wambach, and such present and former men's stars as Landon Donovan, Cobi Jones, Alexi Lalas and Eric Wynalda. Donovan's wife, actress Bianca Kajlich, also will play, as will television personality Ty Pennington, comedians Carlos Mencia and Jay Mohr, actress Nikki Cox, Dodgers General Manager Ned Colletti, and others.

It has been 37 months since Hamm's farewell game, and she has no plans to come out of retirement -- although she does plan to run in a half-marathon, not long after her girls celebrate their first birthday in March.

Nor will she return when the WPS begins in 2009, with one of the teams to play at the Home Depot Center. "I'll help the league in whatever way I can outside of playing," she said.

As for being the model for the WPS logo, Hamm was almost apologetic."If I have trouble getting into things, I'll just use it," she said. "They'll say, 'Do you have any I.D.?' and I'll just point to the logo."

Joking aside, Hamm said that despite the U.S. national team's third-place finish in last year's Women's World Cup in China, she believes the American squad can win the Olympic gold medal in Beijing in August, just as she, Foudy, Fawcett, Lilly and all the rest did so memorably in Athens in 2004. "There's no doubt in my mind that this team has the talent," she said.

For now, though, the focus is on today and helping bone marrow transplant patients and their families. Fans attending the game can be bone marrow typed (a simple mouth swab is all it takes) and entered in the national bone marrow registry.

"For all of us, it's kind of a reality check," said Hamm, who lost her adopted brother, Garrett, to aplastic anemia a decade ago. "Also, it shows these people that we're asking to register what the possibility could be -- that they have the potential to save someone's life."

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grahame.jones@latimes.com

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THE FACTS

Celebrity Soccer Challenge

* When: Today, 1 p.m.

* Where: Home Depot Center

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