Aaron Boone won’t be playing baseball anymore. After 16 seasons in the pros — 12 in Major League Baseball, with six teams — the former USC star third baseman won’t be going far. ESPN announced today that he’s been hired as a new “Baseball Tonight” analyst starting next week, as well as doing some game color.
“It is with a sense of pride, sadness, and enthusiasm that I formally announce my retirement after 16 years of professional baseball,” Boone said in a statement. “While it’s tough to leave the game as a player, I am eager to start my next career with my new team at ESPN. I am very grateful that I’ll be able to stay in the game as an ESPN analyst and work with people who share the same passion for baseball that I do. I really appreciate ESPN giving me the opportunity to evolve in the sport that I love.”
Jay Levy, ESPN senior coordinating producer, added: “As a player, Aaron was a tremendous competitor known for one of baseball’s most dramatic postseason walk-off home runs. He offers an important perspective, being recently removed from the game and having deep baseball roots, which will make him a great addition to our team.”
In 12 seasons, most of them with the Cincinnati Reds (’97-03), Boone was an NL All Star in ’03. On the last day of the 1998 season, the Reds helped him make baseball trivia history by starting the only infield ever composed of two sets of brothers — first baseman Stephen Larkin, second baseman Bret Boone, shortstop Barry Larkin, and third baseman Aaron Boone.
In ’03, after he was traded late in the season to the New York Yankees, Aaron Boone hit the famous game- and series-clinching home run in the bottom of the 11th inning of Game 7 of the ALCS to push the Yankees to a 6-5 victory over the Boston Red Sox and Tim Wakefield.
Boone’s combined ’03 stats: 24 home runs, 96 RBI and a .267 average.
That offseason, Boone tore a knee ligament during a pick-up basketball game played in violation of his contract with the Yankees and was released — opening the way for the Yankees to obtain Alex Rodriguez. He didn’t return to the big leagues until 2005 (with Cleveland), and after stops in Florida (’07) and Washington (’08), he went to Houston (’09) and is believed to be the first player to return to the big leagues after open-heart surgery.
He underwent the procedure in March ’09, and returned to the field in September, six months later when he made his Astros debut against the Chicago Cubs. He appeared in 10 games over the remainder of the season. Boone said he had known about his heart condition since his college days at USC, but tests after a physical determined he needed surgery, although it was not an emergency.
Boone is a member of what could be the most famous family of major leaguers — grandfather Ray was a former All-Star third baseman, father Bob was a former All-Star catcher (including a time with the Angels) and manager (he was Aaron’s manager at one time), and brother Bret is a retired All-Star second baseman, also from USC.
Boone, a Villa Park High standout, was a guest analyst for the MLB Network coverage of the 2009 ALCS between the Angels and Yankees and also worked for ESPN Radio.