Long before Jeff Bagwell was left speechless in Cooperstown the Boston native was just a prospect in the Boston Red Sox farm system, and not a highly touted one either. He was traded to the Houston Astros in 1990 for relief pitcher Larry Anderson. Bagwell explained the news hit his family pretty hard, but there was one person who saw the opportunity in this.
“I was devastated when I was traded because I was leaving my home town team which would be the Red Sox.” Bagwell told a crowded group in Cooperstown. “My grandmother is crying my grandfather is crying, my mother is crying, and my dad said, ‘You know what you might have chance with this one.’ Because the Astros didn’t have that great of a season the year before. If you look at it I got to play that year in ’91. To start in the big leagues, it was the best thing that could have happened to me. My dad had the foresight to actually see that.”
He didn’t just start in ’91 he won the NL rookie of the year. And he did it with a batting stance that turned some heads. The irony, he was just trying to keep his level; “It was basically my attempt to get my head still the entire way.” Bagwell said with a smile. “I kind of learned that by watching Tony Gywnn, and that was the idea. Nor did I think my legs were going to be that wide, and I was going to drop my hands and step backwards. Everything I would never teach, but somehow it worked for me a little bit.”
It worked to the tune of over 23 hundred career hits, and more than 400 home runs. But the 2017 inductee admits it probably also destroyed a few swings, including two in his own house.
“People always joke that I messed up an entire generation of kids in Houston which I agree with because I remember my daughters, they really didn’t see me play but they so pictures of me. So when they started softball the first thing they did was spread out and bend their knees so I was like of my God what is going on here.”
Jeff Bagwell will have a chance to address all those Houston kids, during his July 30th induction ceremony all part of the hall of fame weekend.